We could learn a lot from Japanese culture at the World Cup.
Win or lose, fans of Japan’s Samurai Blue are making headlines around the world for how they conduct themselves, honor the opportunity, and celebrate the moment by cleaning up after themselves by leaving locker rooms and the stands they sit in almost spotless.
Contrast this with how we do things. Close your eyes and imagine.
Japan’s World Cup team beat Colombia 2-1 in Mordovia Arena and after all the celebrating was finished and the locker room emptied, there was a strange sight left at the scene where players cut away athletic tape, ingested post-game food and drink, showered and toweled off.
The place was almost white glove clean. A custodial crew came in and, well, there was nothing to do but take a break.
Outside, in the stands, Japanese fans had brought in snacks and like an army of ants at a picnic, they were scouring over and underneath the chair seats picking up rubbish and garbage, from wrappers to empty bottles and cans. They were an army of maids, recreating the scene when some 15,000 volunteer workers had prepared the place before the game began.
After losing to Belgium, the Japanese did the same. With tears in their eyes and bags in their hands, they picked up and cleaned the area they’d occupied.
This behavior turned more than a few heads. It became a popular story on social media.
Culture begins with how you act when no one is looking. Well, now folks are looking. And it is impressive.
Japanese culture is in full bloom at the World Cup.
It’s about respect for the game.
It’s about respect for the venue and hosts.
It’s about respect for the opponent.
It’s about respect for self.
Contrast this with so many of our stadiums. Look at our restrooms, parking lots, aisles and underneath seats. If you dare, go look in a college football or basketball locker room after a game when the team has had its good or bad moment, showered, post eaten box lunches and guzzled down protein shakes or Gatorade. Take in the smell, try to walk anywhere without kicking a towel, a piece of garbage or avoiding some athletic tape.
I don’t want to get into the anthem thing, but even that is part of it. Where is the respect for our games, our teams, our hosts, ourselves?
The Japanese exude class, civility, respect. Their culture has hammered that into their DNA for centuries. There are bigger things than themselves, things such as their elders, their children, insulting their ancestors. Everything is reflective, every detail counts. An extra effort to make something better is worth that minute effort to do something no one else will.
We’re better than we show. Why don’t we show it?
Clint Eastwood once said, “Respect your efforts, respect yourself. Self-respect leads to self-discipline. When you have both firmly under your belt, that’s real power.”
The Japanese soccer team even swept out the shed that temporarily stowed their equipment near the field.
That takes a lot of self-awareness about who and what you are. And what you don’t want to be known for.
In America, we’ve been blessed beyond imagination with opportunities and the right to dream and make them come true.
Our sporting events are a fabulous outlet for energy, passion and adoration of performers who’ve paid the price to be the best.
But something’s missing, a little touch of self-respect, honor, civility and it’s not just the big things, but the little ones.
The great Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Respect was invented to cover the empty place where love should be.”
I salute the Japanese World Cup team and their fans.
They remind us of where our love should be.