Essay: Cross-Cultural Management

Pages: 6 (2672 words)  ·  Style: Chicago  ·  Bibliography Sources: 3  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Sports  ·  Buy This Paper

Mr. Baseball and Multiculturalism

Describe Mr. Selleck's expatriate entry into Japan and his reentry to the U.S.A. How did this global assignment effect his professional career?

Initially, Selleck's character, Jack Elliot, is on the downside of his career, arrogant, and set in his ways. When he is traded to a Japanese Team, the Nagoya Chunichi Dragons, he immediately clashes with his new manager, teammates, and most especially with Japanese culture. Elliot is, indeed, the quintessential "Ugly American," demanding, snobbish, and unwilling to even entertain the thought that anything about another culture might have value.

Finally, everyone has had enough of Elliot's Americanisms, including violence towards his interpreter, and he is suspended. He does a bit of reflecting and realizes it is he who is on the "outside" of the culture, not everyone else. He swallows his pride, admits his errors, and apologizes to the team. Rather than gloating, the team shows true camaraderie and congratulates him on his honesty -- teaching him the true meaning of sportsmanship, team effort, and mutual cultural respect. This reinvigorates Eliot and he begins to improve his own game.

5. In a cultural "switch," Eliot uses the Japanese tradition of being able to "tell off" your boss if intoxicated to offer suggestions that may help the Japanese players be more aggressive with the sport. Eventually, both Eliot and the team improve to the point in which Max (the other American player on the team) signs a contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Eliot, having become romantically involved with the coach's daughter Hiroko, accepts more and more of Japanese culture and becomes the coach of the Detroit Tigers. His maturity and acceptance of cultural differences are one of the reasons he is sought to be a coach, realizing that not only his skill in baseball, but his ability to communicate cross-culturally and understand different approaches to the game, and to the people, are incredible strengths for a coach.

6. Describe Mr. Selleck's particular cultural programming and values, his culture as "frozen history," the "age" of his USA culture vs. that of Japan, and choose three of the seven major cultural disclaimers, applying them specifically to Mr. Selleck's situation.

"Mr. Baseball" was released in 1992, and Eliot appears to be in his early 40s, on the downside of his career, meaning he would likely have been born sometime in the 1950s, schooled and culturally acclimatized in the 1960s. We don't know exactly where his home town was, but since the film is loosely based on the life of African-American Lenron Lee, who played for the Lotte Orions in the late 70s up to 1987, we can assume more of a "middle America" approach than a sophisticated Ivy League upbringing. Because of this, it is important to remember that the Japan of the 1960s and early 70s is not the Japan of the 1990s.

In the decades of the 60s and 70s, Japan was still known for "cheap knock offs," and tiny cars that needed work (Honda, Toyota). American arrogance was high, the Cold War was rampant, and stereotypes left over from World War II still existed (these would've been Eliot's parents). Similarly, Americans were not encouraged to learn about other cultures, except to understand the U.S.S.R. As a major enemy; Japanese culture and language certainly were not readily taught in American Public Education, and in larger urban areas Asians tended to ghettoize. About the only contact many Americans had with Asians would be at a local Chinese Restaurant, and very little distinction was made between various Asian cultures -- all were yellowish, had slanted eyes, were small boned, meek, and overly polite (e.g. Mr. Moto).

In contrast, from the 1950s on, Japan new it was taking the long, but practical road to economic domination. Children learned English from an early age, and many Japanese were encouraged to study in American colleges and universities. American movies and cultural icons were popular, and even on an industry standard (automobiles, electronics, etc.), Japan was preparing for its role as America's new high-tech provider.

Cross-Culturally, there are several issues in the film that bring the audience's attention to alternative views (disclaimers):

It is impossible to generalize any group of people with a few words -- Any culture is multidimensional; Eliot is not the prime example of an American, although he does fit American stereotypes. Because a culture is vast and complex, it is impossible to simply generalize that a culture is X and act accordingly.

Intercultural communications is concerned with tendencies, not absolutes -- Mr. Baseball shows us that communication is a two-way street; it is not about speaking, but also about the respect of listening. The tendencies of working in a different culture are important, for instance, Eliot learned that in public "face" is important to a Japanese, and criticism needs to be framed appropriately. Similarly, the team learned that Eliot could evolve and adapt.

7. Variation exists within any cultural or social group -- Mr. Baseball shows us that individual character is different within any culture: Eliot is not the same as Max; each Japanese player is different, and it is that difference that Eliot comes to respect and ultimately leads to his success.

8. Single most important -- what incidents demonstrate Selleck's American cultural values and/versus the Japanese (coach, players, assistant, and lover) cultural values, on each of the five dimensions in Hofstede's model? Please use several examples per each dimension.

Power Distance Index (PDI) -- This is the degree inequality among people that a culture considers part of normative behavior. In Mr. Baseball, Eliot learns that there is a clear hierarchy within the team, and that the Umpire and Team Manager expect respect because of their title. Eliot is perplexed during his first sake serving, not understanding that the women serve the men in status order from highest to lowest.

Individualism (IDV)- the value placed on individual behavior. This is the largest cross-cultural barrier in Mr. Baseball. Japanese tend to be more team oriented, collective -- their weakest link on a team defines them; Americans are more "star" power, individualistic, or in the phrase used in the movie, "hot dog." Eliot learns that he cannot win or succeed using the American individualistic model, rather he must adapt to a team-oriented collective paradigm.

Masculinity (MAS) -- Value placed on work, money and achievement. In this, Japanese culture is similar to American culture; although titles mean more to the characters in Mr. Baseball than to Eliot. Winning is important, and more than just winning- and both Eliot and the team suffer tremendous psychological angst when they lose. Gender roles, though, are clearly defined, and, as Eliot learns in his romance with Hiroko, there are certain cultural expectations (patience, wisdom, and politeness) that he must adopt if he is to win her heart.

Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) -- This is a value placed on predictability, structure, and stability. Mr. Baseball shows us that the Japanese, in general, avoid ambiguous public situations, preferring a right/wrong, black/white approach to rules, regulations, and particularly the consequences of Eliot's temper.

Long-Term Orientation (LTO) -- Values placed on persistence, status and respect for tradition. Japan scores high on this value, America low. In Mr. Baseball, Eliot first sees himself and the players as commodities simply playing a game; the players, however, see the team as part of a cultural tradition that engenders respect and status, if they act honorably. The change in Eliot regarding his LTO is also one of the major turning points in his ability to recover from his slump and learn to express his skills. During the meal, Eliot makes several mistakes that are reflective of his lack of understanding of Japanese tradition: putting chopsticks into the rice; the slurping sound that diners use when enjoying their noodles, etc.

4) New cultural experiences in the professional world often flow in three stages from disgust to acceptance/adaptation and finally to approval. Where can this be seen in Selleck's international experience and what were the actual points of change?

1)

Eliot is, as we have noted, the quintessential "ugly American" during his initial encounters with the Japanese team. He is individualistic, arrogant, a braggart, and not only culturally insensitive, but not a team player. However, it seems that there are three key elements within the plot that are significant "change agents" for Eliot and his realization that he needs to do some soul searching and behavior changing -- not the rest of the world:

2) Eliot's suspension -- Eliot cannot believe that "The Chief," Mr. Uchiyama, could possibly suspend him, the team's star player. After his suspension, the audience sees Eliot staring despondently over the city from his apartment's patio; and he realizes that his actions have alienated him from not only his one American teammate, but his Japanese friends as well. If he is to live in Japan, he begins to realize, he must accept a new way of problem solving and learn that communication is about people receiving your message, not… [END OF PREVIEW]

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