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DALLAS (105.3 THE FAN) – Over the past several days, I’ve been asked by many what my experience was like, in attending the official Yu Darvish introduction press conference last Friday.
In all honesty, it was unbeknownst to me, that I would be thrust into being part of what would be deemed, “The Question,” and just how enlightened I would end up being walking away from Rangers Ballpark that night.
As I made my way into the ballpark, I took note of the chaotic scene I was walking through. This wasn’t just a local event. It transcended that. This was in fact, an international fiasco. Throngs of Japanese reporters lined the streets, coupled with television crews, and news vans. American reporters and Japanese reporters were eagerly vying in competition for the perfect spot to report their Yu story. I stopped and spoke with a Japanese photojournalist who declared to me that he was here in the U.S. with a heavy heart to cover the departure of Yu Darvish from his country; a country, as he would further explain to me, was devastated from losing “their son.”
I already knew that this would be no ordinary press conference.
LISTEN: Jasmine talks about her experience on New School
It started out like any other routine press conference that I’d typically prepare for. I walked in to the press conference room, sat on a folding chair in one of the rows, and feverishly scribbling away fragments of thoughts and random statistical information on my notepad that would only make sense to me; all the while, scrolling away on my various social media outlets to get a grasp for what news was buzzing about in those realms, as I sat in the confines of the press conference room.
As I scrolled away, I noticed the words “Yu Darvish” being associated with “pot leaf” and “Japanese maple leaf.” Confused by this, I was eager to discover why in the world all of these words were being tied together when almost immediately, my morning show co-host, Shan Shariff, frantically texted me.
“Did you see the shirt, Yu was wearing at the airport???” he asked.
I texted back, “No, but I’m assuming it has something to do with a pot leaf or maple leaf?”
He texted me a picture of the infamous shirt that Yu was donning earlier in the day– a shirt that had raised quite a few eyebrows when Darvish landed at DFW Airport, namely because of the fact that it had on it what appeared to be some sort of marijuana leaf adorned with the words, “I will survive.”
I sat up from my seat and looked around me only to realize that the room full of roughly 200 photographers, writers, and reporters were all whispering and rumbling about “the pot shirt.” I made my rounds with several of my fellow media members to verify with each other if the picture we were seeing really was true.
It was at that moment that I threw all caution, and all of what I would conventionally do, to the wind. I immediately sat down and scratched out the questions I was going to ask him, regarding his four-seam fastball or the logistics behind what his specific throwing style could bring in reference to the future success of the Texas Rangers.
Replacing those, was a question FAR greater, FAR more imperative, and FAR more of the interest to the public and my fellow media colleagues.
It was my duty to get Yu to tell me what the motive was behind wearing such a provocative t-shirt.
As I came to the realization that I was going to do so, an instant wave of nervousness took over my body. “I can’t ask him THAT!” I told myself. “I have to ask him something credible, something ABOUT baseball!” The more I panicked, the more I decided that I was going to go ahead with it anyway. I told myself that no one is going to care about the typical baseball questions he has fielded a million times over from the press. People wanted to know why the heck he was wearing the shirt that he was wearing!
As the wireless mic was being passed around, I took a deep breath and seized my opportunity.
So, as the owner of the third question in to the press conference, I stood up, and looked Yu Darvish directly in the eyes and said, “Welcome to Dallas/Fort Worth. You had on an interesting t-shirt earlier. Can you describe what you were wearing?”
An instant silence permeated throughout the entire room. I could actually feel those around me nervous FOR me for the question I had just asked. I tried to simultaneously take in the collective reactions of the panel that sat with Yu, as I kept asking myself, “Jasmine, what in the world have you just done??” Rangers GM Jon Daniels gave a slight eye roll, while Ron Washington and Mike Maddux just sat and looked forward. Yu’s translator smiled as he relayed the question to Yu.
The time lapse between when my question left my lips to when Yu was able to understand what was being relayed to him felt like an eternity. Sweat beads started to collect at my hairline as I watched Yu like a hawk to determine if I had just ostracized myself from ever being able to speak with him again.
That’s when a grin washed over Yu’s face as he smiled and answered with, “I wore things with English written on them. I realized what I was wearing when my father told me. There really is no meaning behind me wearing [this t-shirt].”
I sat down and took in what I had just done. For the first time in my career as a media member, I had actually strayed away from the typical “x’s and o’s” form of question and went for what would be widely regarded by the public jury as a meaningless question, only meant to draw more fire to journalistic hyperbole.
No other question that I asked of Ron Washington that night came close to the ripples I caused with my t-shirt question to Yu. I was inundated with emails, tweets, and texts over the decision to ask Yu the question that I did. Some were complimentary and some were down right mean. So much criticism was drawn from my action, that it prompted me to issue a statement explaining why I did what I did.
With it all said and done and now sitting here behind this computer screen recounting the events of that evening, I can most definitely say that the Yu Darvish press conference was hands down the most multi-faceted press conference that I have ever been a part of in my entire eleven-year career.
I came to a new found realization that it’s actually OKAY to deter from the stereotypical questions regarding fundamental elements of the plays in any given sport, but I found that it’s OKAY to humanize the athletes that we typically forget are just that; human.
I discovered more about myself as a journalist and through the Japanese media who were present, I was able to capture the true raw emotion in their self proclaimed “loss” of Yu Darvish, that defines the human condition.