Actually, it's not that big of a surprise.
This is a league, after all, that does little on a consistent basis to generate publicity in the media or create a buzz about what it's accomplished in its first six seasons. Player quotes after games remain unavailable for the national media and fans; they are not archived, distributed or posted online anywhere. So hundreds of games each year have little insight from the actual participants; call it a point of disgust for yours truly, but the league office has made no effort to work on this.
And remember this: It’s a league that is struggling mightily in several markets to attract enough fans to spend money to attend their games. People, it says here, do not have enough knowledge about the teams, players, coaches, quirky trends and history about the league.
In addition, with seven new teams in the past two seasons, including the expansion Chiba Jets, Iwate Big Bulls, Shinshu Brave Warriors and Yokohama B-Corsairs for 2011-12, you'd think the league office would insist on having its coaches do as many media functions as possible. Get the word out, would be the rationale, about the new teams. Give people with notepads, digital recorders and cameras endless opportunities to document the new coaches' hopes and aspirations.
But this is not the way the bj-league operates. Spending as little money as possible on things that matter is the normal way of doing things.
It's stunning, then, that even player representatives from each of the teams will be in Tokyo for next week's media event. Sure, players can say interesting, meaningful things. But first and foremost, this is the role of head coaches.
A year ago, it was a progressive move for the bj-league, which rarely does progressive things, to have player and coaching representatives from all 16 teams. In just a few hours, I was able to cram in enough interviews for a dozen or so stories; other reporters also greatly benefited from this. It was time well spent. And it was a necessary activity.
For a league spread out over 19 prefectures and three islands, having all of the coaches in one location at one time is time well spent and enables journalists in the nation's media capital an opportunity to do their job properly.
If the league isn't willing to provide these types of opportunities for journalists, it could adapt this motto: Sorry, media, your job doesn't matter to us."
But seriously, the league takes one step forward for every three steps it takes backward.
A media day without all the coaches is a horrible idea. This, however, would be at least a decent one: Set up a press teleconference (using Skype or a similar service). It could be done for free -- a policy I have been advocating for a few years now -- with each of the league's coaches. Give them 10-15 minutes to answer questions from reporters, many of whom are not in Tokyo, and may not get the OK from their editors to travel to Tokyo for a media event. Instead, a press teleconference would save money, and league staff could transcribe these comments in English and Japanese and post them on the league's website. Bam! Simple. It's a win-win concept, but it won't happen.
Why? The bj-league's media relations/PR staff personnel don’t see the big picture. Their energy and efforts are misguided and focused on other things.
It's time for common sense to prevail.
In a league with a high turnover of coaches (11 of 16 bench bosses to begin the 2010-11 season were not in those spots to kick off the previous campaign), a once-a-year event is not too much to ask for. Coaches are the public face of their franchises, and should fill that role as often as possible -- on the phone and in person.
Somewhere along the way, from its humble beginnings with six teams for the 2005-06 season to its 20-team (dropped to 19 after the Tokyo Apache bailed out of the league) planned setup for this season, the league lost track of what matters.
But it's never too late to recognize the importance of media. Often, media attention is the driving force in new fans' developing a passion for a sports league.