Japan: Sports with “no future”

Why do people play sports? Is it out of a love for the game, just for a good time, or is it actually a career choice like any other? 21-year-old Japanese pro-golfer Ueda Momoko sparked a heated debate in the comment section of her blog earlier this week after she reflected on exactly this question in a TV interview. In the interview, broadcast Sunday on the TV station TBS, Ueda remarked that she could not understand young people who play sports like volleyball or basketball, sports which, according to her, have “no future”.

The comment appeared in the following exchange:

上田「自分は〜、あの〜。ははっ、意地汚いというか何なのか解らないんですけれども〜 同級生とかで〜、バレーとか…、バスケとかをしてる子が〜もう、不思議でしょうがなかったと言うか〜、先がないスポーツを何でできるんだろうと思ってて〜。」

Ueda: “Well I, um. Haha, maybe I was being greedy or something, I don't know, but it struck me as really strange that classmates of mine were playing sports like volleyball and basketball. I wondered why they were playing these sports with no future.”

インタビュアー 「先がないスポーツ(笑)?」

Interviewer: “Sports with no future?”

上田「プロっていうものがないじゃないですか?どうしてそこまで頑張れるのかなっと思って…。なんかずっと続けられる、それでそのスポーツが仕事になるスポーツしかしたくないと思ってたし〜。じゃないと、本気になれないと思ってたんですよ。ゴルフを始める時は、絶対稼ぐって思ってたし〜。 やるなら世界で通用できるようなプロになりたいと思ってたし〜。うん。」

Ueda: “They don't have professional leagues, do they? So I wondered, why do they work so hard? I only want to play a sport that I can continue playing all through my life, so that the sport becomes my job. If that were not the case, then to be honest I don't think I could do it. When I first started playing golf, I thought to myself, I can definitely make money doing this. I thought to myself, if I do this, then I want to become a world-class pro.”

After a deluge of comments flooded her blog chiding her for only caring about money, Ueda replied in the following post:


To be honest, I was surprised myself when I watched it…
In the middle of a program I made the statement that: “People who can play volleyball or basketball are amazing…”
It's about this incident…


When I was in my 3rd year of elementary school, I decided that I wanted to become a golfer, and in my 4th year I started playing golf.
Up until then, I had had an interest in many things, in soccer, swimming, calligraphy, piano, and I also often played volleyball and basketball in school.


I had friends that joined the volleyball and basketball teams, but at that time, I didn't realize that there was a professional side [to these sports], and so it seemed strange to me that they were working so hard [playing these sports].

Not all bloggers were satisfied with this explanation. Blogger Wakkun writes:


Ueda Momoko: “Sports with no future.” This is more than just an inappropriate comment, it seems that this is how she really feels. What happened was that her real feelings slipped out. This is a typical case in which a human being achieves some success and becomes famous, only to then turn into a tengu (i.e. become big-headed).

Other bloggers were more sympathetic. One blogger wrote that:


People who play [sports like] volleyball and basketball are playing sports with no future — there were a lot of critical comments about this statement in blogs, but personally, I think that it is an entirely respectable position, and that it is great that she has the professional spirit.

Finally, blogger Horikawa considered the criticisms and responded this way:


Then, in the comments to her blog, well there were arguments for and against,
both of them were there, but
on the side of her critics, many wrote that:


“You're just in it for the money! Other people are not in it for money! They enjoy the sport, so they are competing as professionals. Learn from them!”
This kind of thing was very common, but well, I have the feeling this is not quite right…


Because ultimately, a pro is evaluated according to money.
[Some people say]: what is wrong with money as motivation?
Which is not to say that Ueda-san is saying this.



But there is this kind of tendency.
It's not about money! — this kind of thing.

Well look, it's like asking a salaryman, if he really likes his job, would he do it for only 100,000 yen per month? Isn't this the kind of thing we're talking about? It's the same way of looking at things.

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