Because there are no live American sports to be broadcast — and people can only watch that Michael Jordan documentary so many times — ESPN has decided to start broadcasting games from the Korea Baseball Organization, the South Korean major leagues. ESPN is hoping that American sports fans who know nothing about the Korean league or teams will nevertheless tune in to provide that taste of live sports they have been craving.
I don’t know beans about the KBO, but I enjoy reading about sports teams in other countries and, especially, the team names. My favorite foreign sports name is the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, a Japanese team that doesn’t contemplate battling hams, but instead is managed by the Nippon Ham company — which is the cause of the curious name. The Korean league apparently has a strong corporate element, too, with team names that include Samsung and Hyundai.
If you’re inclined to watch a game and are trying to decide who to root for, here’s a list of the teams in the league: Doosan Bears, NC Dinos, Samsung Lions, Lotte Giants, LG Twins, Kiwoom Heroes, KIA Tigers, SK Wyverns, Hanwha Eagles, KT Wiz, and Hyundai Unicorns. I like the rugged confidence of the Kiwoom team self-describing its players as “heroes,” and I also was intrigued by the Wyverns, the Unicorns, and Wiz, who obviously don’t care that they have the same name as an old Broadway musical and movie starring Diana Ross and Michael Jackson. But if I’m going to watch a game I’m going to be pulling for the NC Dinos, just because their mascot is a formidable, long-necked dinosaur who looks like a cross between Godzilla and a bodybuilder.
Will American sports fans tune in the KBO — where games, apparently, will be played in empty stadiums with banners stretched across the seating area that depict fans wearing masks? I’m guessing yes. Baseball is baseball, and South Korea has produced a number of players who have made it to the American major leagues, so the talent level is undoubtedly pretty good. And the players might be trying even harder than usual if they know that American fans, and American scouts, will be watching.