Book Review: “Bad Foreigner” by James McKnight

As a Hanshin Tigers fan, when it came to my most recent birthday and relations were asking what they could get me, I added James McKnight’s books about supporting the Hanshin Tigers to the list. I knew that these would be a very different experience to The Sportsworld of the Hanshin Tigers: Professional Baseball in Modern Japan by William W. Kelly which is an academic text and that I had previously read and reviewed. Having completed the first book, “Yellow & Black Fever”, earlier in the year, I left the second book to when I hoped that the Tigers, given how strong their start to 2021 season had been, to coincide with them winning the Central League and Japan Series. That wasn’t to be – but the parallels with the Tigers’ during some of the time period covered by “Bad Foreigner” was a further reminder of what it can be like to be a Tigers’ fan and how it seems never changing.

As with the first book, this book isn’t purely about the Hanshin Tigers or the author’s support of the Hanshin Tigers. It’s primarily a combination of three things – the author’s life in Japan as a foreigner, the author’s experience on the JET Programme, and the author’s experiences as a Hanshin Tigers fan. While I also regularly go to Japan, was on the JET Programme, and support the Hanshin Tigers, in most respects the author’s and my outlook and experiences of all three things are very different. At times, reading the author’s stories were painful due to our differences, but, particularly compared to the first book, by the time I got to the end, I detected a significant shift in how I felt about the overall contents.

The reason I wanted the books was, first-and-foremost, because I am a Hanshin Tigers fan and I thought it would be entertaining to read about another foreigner’s experiences of supporting the team. Although I may be wrong, my impression was that this book had a bit more of these stories compared to the first book. But the version of supporting the Hanshin Tigers that this book reveals are a world away from mine. That’s not a problem. It’s good to remember that although we share the same common interest – go through similar periods of elation and pain (mostly pain) – there are many different ways to support the team and show that support.

As with the first book, I didn’t have the same level of interest in the author’s love-life as I did with his support of the Tigers, and this may be another reason why, as with the first book, I often felt that certain stories and conversations included in the text were surplus to requirement. The Japan and JET Programme experiences, although, again, very different to mine, were at times interesting and served as a useful reminder for things I need to be aware of when both writing and teaching about both (particularly when thinking about my own students who will go to Japan, some on the JET Programme after graduation).

As with the first book, the fact that the book is based on personal experiences made it a useful read for me given that I am writing a book related to Frankie Goes To Hollywood and their fans which will, in part, be based on my personal experiences. Perhaps it was due to this that, as I intimated earlier on, by the end of the book, there was a shift in how I felt about the book, and, by extension, the author.

Towards the final few pages, the Hanshin Tigers element didn’t get as much detail as in some other parts of the book, which was a shame, but, at one level, I didn’t mind too much. For whatever reason, I had become interested in the author’s broader experiences and life – as different as they may be to mine. When the end of the book came, my feeling was ‘I want to know what happened to McKnight next’ – the Hanshin Tigers element doesn’t even need to be the main part – I’m genuinely interested to know. I suspect that, more like me, the Tigers went on to a bit-part in his life, but I don’t know… but I hope we find out in a third book in the series.

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