Japan has scored only one goal in its first two World Cup matches.
But Japanese spectators in Brazil have scored a major triumph for individual responsibility. After both of their team's games (a 2-1 loss to Ivory Coast last Saturday and a 0-0 tie with Greece Thursday), they have cleaned up stadium litter.
They will do so again Tuesday, when Japan must pull a major upset over Colombia to avoid elimination from the quadrennial sports spectacle.
Though this story has a "man bites dog" shock appeal for many, some of us aren't surprised by the Japanese commitment to leaving no mess behind.
That admirable resolve was on constant display 14 months ago during my first, but hopefully not last, trip to that fascinating island nation. The long journey with my wife to visit our son lasted three nights in Tokyo, three in Fukushima-shi and three more back in Tokyo.
On our final night way over there, we attended a baseball game at Tokyo's Meiji Jingu Stadium (Yakult Swallows 3, Hiroshima Carp 1). The crowd there also picked up after itself.
Just don't expect many spectators at RiverDogs games to follow that tidy example.
RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols told me Thursday that his team has "overall a clean fan base." Yet he also said five to seven workers pick up fan-strewn trash during games at Riley Park. Once the crowd departs, usually a half-hour or so after a game, Echols said it's "Pick up the big items and break out the blowers" for a task that takes from one and a half to two hours.
And Charleston Battery president Andrew Bell told me Friday that it takes his side of workers "a few hours to get it back to respectability" after games at Blackbaud Stadium on Daniel Island.
Perhaps the RiverDogs could call their postgame workers "cleanup hitters" (think Mickey Mantle), and the Battery could dub theirs "sweepers" (think Franz Beckenbauer).
Back to Brazil: Some fretful folks find those self-cleaning Japanese fans not just weird but a menace to the job security of those hired to handle that chore.
That's silly. You'll see little or no change in the slovenly standards of most fans at your next outings to watch our RiverDogs (they're at Riley Park again tonight through Thursday night) and our Battery (at Charlotte tonight, but returning to Blackbaud to play Richmond Friday night).
As for the World Cup, if you're psyched for Sunday's U.S.-Portugal showdown and are enjoying telecasts of "The Beautiful Game" from beautiful Brazil, you should also like watching the Battery play futbol, aka soccer, at Blackbaud.
Back to our Far East odyssey, which required going way out westward:
The Japanese seemed much more polite than us Americans. They also seemed to take more pride in their work, regardless of the job.
And yes, they seemed far less inclined to trash up their surroundings.
Sure, most of us are too easily impressed by wherever we are and whoever we're around when on vacation - especially when luxuriating in a swank hotel: We stayed in the same Tokyo Shinjuku Hilton where Sean Connery, the Beatles, the Dalai Lama and other luminaries have lodged.
Yes, the Japanese performed a very different kind of cleanup act by brutally waging aggressive war (remember Pearl Harbor?) to clear space for their ill-fated Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere.
Yet by now they've been our reliable allies for a long time.
And big-league rookie Masahiro Tanaka, formerly of the Rakuten Golden Eagles, is now the only reliable starting pitcher for the New York Yankees, the RiverDogs' parent club. At 11-1, he might be American baseball's best pitcher this season.
As for Japanese baseball, the game we saw last year was enhanced by charmingly enthusiastic fans for both teams.
They blew trumpets, pounded drums, sang, chanted, waved banners and wore funny outfits.
Swallow supporters, including us, even did "umbrella dances" each time the home team scored.
Hey, when in Tokyo, do as the Tokyoans do.
And when anywhere else, emulate the positive things the Japanese do, including putting pride into what you do - in and out of sports arenas.
Bitter gulp a mea culpa
But this column closes in shame, not pride:
My Thursday column incorrectly named Arthur Ravenel as the Republican loser to Democrat Mendel Davis in the 1971 special general election to replace 1st District Congressman Mendel Rivers, who died late in 1970. James B. Edwards was the GOP nominee who lost to Davis. Ravenel did run for that seat in '71, but finished second to Edwards in the Republican primary.
That ill-fated column also reported that John McKissick is heading into his 53rd season as Summerville High School's head football coach.
Of course, as anybody who can count should know, this will be his 63rd season.
But if you like my columns, you can keep your faith that they will have no more mistakes for the rest of this month. Period.
OK, so that's a promise you can count on only because there will be no more columns from me for the rest of this month.
I've got next week off.
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is email@example.com.
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