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Stephen A. Smith was heavily criticized yesterday for insinuating that Shohei Ohtani, a Japanese-born “pitcher” who currently leads all MLB players in home runs, shouldn’t be the face of Major League Baseball.
Why? Because he “needs an interpreter so you can understand what the hell he’s saying in this country.”
Here’s the full quote:
“I understand that baseball is an international sport itself in terms of participation, but when you talk about an audience gravitating to the tube, or to the ballpark, to actually watch you, OK, I don’t think it helps that the number one face is a dude that needs an interpreter, so you can understand what the hell he’s saying in this country.”
Stephen A. Smith later apologized for his comments, stating that he “never intended to offend any community” and called Ohtani “one of the brightest stars in all of sports.”
Personally, I’m a big fan of Stephen A. Smith. He comes from a family of immigrants and played basketball at a small Division II school in North Carolina, eventually finding a passion for journalism when injuries derailed his career.
But it wasn’t easy. He started at a small, local newspaper in Winston Salem after graduation and waited 3 years — writing 500 articles — until he got his first paying job at the New York Daily News. His salary? $15,000 annually.
“I lived off tuna and Kool-Aid,” says Stephen A. Smith.
Fast forward two decades, and Stephen A. Smith is now the highest-paid personality in sports, making $12 million annually.
My point being, I don’t always agree with everything he says, but I certainly respect his work ethic and the life & career he’s built for himself and his family.
But when it comes to Shohei Ohtani, he couldn’t be more wrong.
In a year where Major League Baseball has tried to combat aging fan demographics and a loss in viewership by cracking down on “sticky stuff,” Shohei Ohtani is the best thing to happen to baseball in a decade.
Ohtani is routinely compared to Babe Ruth. He’s the most-searched player on MLB Film Room, both domestically and internationally, and he’s played in all 10 of the highest-viewed MLB regular-season games this year.
Furthermore, he already makes more money off endorsements than any other player in Major League Baseball, despite currently being the 289th highest-paid MLB player via annual salary.
The star power of Shohei Ohtani is on full display this week. He participated in the Home Run Derby last night and will compete in tonight’s All-Star Game as the AL’s starting pitching and leadoff hitter.
He’ll be the first player out of almost 20,000 career MLB players to do that.
In reality, Shohei Ohtani doesn’t need to speak perfect English to become the face of Major League Baseball. He already is the face of Major League Baseball.
Imagine this — Lionel Messi leaves Barcelona to join Inter Miami CF of Major League Soccer. He would instantly be the league’s biggest star, attract an immense amount of viewership, and become “the face of the league,” right?
Of course, because despite not knowing any English, his talent takes precedence.
It’s no different with Shohei Ohtani, and in the end, he speaks the language of 100-mph fastballs and 500-ft home runs pretty damn well. That’s what matters.
Have a great day, and I’ll talk to everyone tomorrow.
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