This column appears on the Japan Forward website.

[Odds and Evens] Here’s My Promise: A Compelling Sports Coverage for JAPAN Forward

May 4, 2020

By Ed Odeven

I was born seven weeks early in April 1974, and my mother still reminds me about it.

“You’ve always been in a hurry,” she says.

That’s probably true. But maybe it was just meant to be.

I’ve always loved sports, and the month I was born marked a major feat in Major League Baseball history, one of the biggest accomplishments ever on the baseball diamond.

Three days after my big arrival in New York City, Atlanta Braves slugger Hank Aaron belted the biggest homer of his career, No. 715 on April 8, 1974. What did it mean? That he had surpassed Babe Ruth, on MLB’s all-time home run list.

I wrote my first big book report in elementary school on Babe Ruth. It was a truly enjoyable experience. I loved reading about the Bambino’s baseball career and summarizing what I read for the school project.

Decades later, it was a thrill to meet Sadaharu Oh, global baseball’s all-time home-run king (868), in Tokyo during a Foreign Sportswriters Association of Japan gathering. Oh received the FSAJ’s Lifetime Achievement Award that night in 2007.

Before and after meeting Oh-san, it’s been an honor to meet or interview many other high-profile sports figures, including George Foreman, James “Buster” Douglas, Carl Lewis, Edwin Moses, Dai Tamesue, Roger Federer, Michael Phelps, Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Dikembe Mutombo, Bill Bradley, Dwane Casey, Tony Parker, Wat Misaka, Mark Messier, Paul Kariya, Kosuke Kitajima, Grace Park, Yukiko Ueno, Shigetoshi Hasegawa, Hideo Nomo, Hideki Irabu, and Kazuhiro Sasaki.

Sports and Other Changes in a COVID-19 Spring

You don’t need me to tell you this, but this isn’t a normal year. On the one hand, people everywhere are coping with profound challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and simply trying to survive.

On the other hand, the perennial brilliance of spring, including the arrival of sakura in Japan, always brightens my mood.

The start of another MLB season has always been high on my list of favorite things. It usually begins right around my birthday. I’ve always considered it an eternal gift.

This year, though, sports has taken a back seat to life’s bare essentials. Sports, often called “the toy department” of American newsrooms in decades past, might not be mandatory ー but people maintain their passion for them.

I’m also adjusting to a new chapter in my journalism career. After nearly 14 years on The Japan Times sports desk — thoroughly covering pro basketball this entire time and a wide range of other topics, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2012 London Games, and editing articles on every sport imaginable — I’ve stepped away from what’s familiar to embark on a new challenge.

JAPAN Forward is forging ahead with lofty ambitions, and striving to elevate sports coverage is one of them. And I am eager to do what I can to give readers compelling articles that highlight this nation’s rich and diverse sporting culture, as well as the accomplishments of Japanese athletes overseas.

What’s more, I aim to bring meaningful conversations with athletes and coaches, pundits and experts, among others, who care about and know what’s going on in Japanese sports to the website’s fledgling podcast. Indeed, the goal is to inform listeners and increase my knowledge on countless subjects at the same time. (Your recommendations for podcast guests and topics are greatly appreciated.)

Full column here: