Thursday, December 9

Stephen A. Smith’s comments on Shohei Ohtani’s ability to speak English are idiotic and wrong

Shohei Ohtani is in the midst of perhaps the best performances of a season that a baseball player has ever had in the history of the sport.

This, apparently, is not enough for ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith, not that anyone really cares. But the ESPN artist thinks it’s bad for Ohtani to use an interpreter and believes that his use of one is actually “damaging” the game, which in itself doesn’t make sense.

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“But when you’re talking to an audience, gravitating to the subway or the ballpark to really see you, I don’t think it helps that face number one … needs an interpreter to understand what the hell he’s saying,” says Smith.

Smith’s reasoning, simply put, is that Ohtani’s inability to speak English hurts the game because he can’t connect with a younger generation of baseball fans, which Smith says is a problem because the sport is ” in trouble “and you need those stars.

There are many reasons why these comments are idiotic and wrong and we probably shouldn’t waste our time on them. But let’s break them down, anyway:

– Baseball is a sport where there is a massive influx of Latino and Asian players, many of whom are the stars and faces of today’s baseball. Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuña Jr., Vladimir Guerrero Jr., to name a few. While Tatis is fluent in English, Acuña and Guerrero Jr. still use interpreters to express their point of view in interviews and press conferences.


If a professional athlete in the United States feels that they can more comfortably answer a question and express their thoughts in their native language, why not? That’s your right, and the commentators really shouldn’t have a say in the matter. Japan’s own Ichiro Suzuki was one of baseball’s biggest stars in his career, speaking only English with his teammates, choosing to use a translator for press conferences. Why? Out of respect for the language and not to cause confusion when speaking.

– Some of the best and best known athletes in the world do not speak English. Have you heard of Messi? Its a big problem.

– Using the ability to speak English as a barometer of a star’s popularity in baseball is a silly, fleeting, and failed exercise. Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, Aaron Judge and Mookie Betts are four of MLB’s preeminent stars who speak English. But they are not the universal and well-known sports stars that they should be. That is not an English problem. That’s a major league problem that the league is trying to rectify. If English-speaking American players aren’t getting the touch they should as superstars, how does Ohtani’s decision to use an interpreter factor influence here?

– Shohei Ohtani will be the starting pitcher in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game. He will hit in the 2021 MLB All-Star Game. He will participate in the 2021 MLB Home Run Derby. His ability to speak English has nothing to do with it with how big a star is in baseball, especially overseas in Japan, and if you need it as an excuse to denigrate or criticize him, you may need some new material.

So it doesn’t really matter if Ohtani speaks English. It is embarrassing that someone considers this to be a problem.

Ohtani’s game is translated. That’s all that matters.

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