My Seattle Times teammate Larry Stone had an interesting post today looking at the transition of walkoff home run celebrations at home plate from spontaneous events into well-coreographed routines.
Some of you watching Ichiro’s game-winning home run on Friday night to beat the Yankees might have noticed the odd little two-handed hip slap he and some teammates did as he arrived at the plate. Click on the video in the link I’ve provided to see it again. Much of the attention has been paid to Rob Johnson for somehow spraining an ankle waiting for Ichiro to arrive at home. But for me, well, the hip-slap did catch my attention when I saw it on highlights later that night.
My Japanese readers tell me there has been much chatter about it on TV overseas and that the move is known as “The Komanechi” (though there seems to be some debate about that, judging by the responses this post is getting).
Photo Credit: AP
Supposedly, it was invented by Japanese comedian Kitano “Beat” Takeshi and is meant to be a silly sort of gesture, one that is supposed to strike up memories of the tight leotard worn by Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci.
Here’s an excerpt from a British book written about Takeshi back in 1999 that describes the Komanechi routine.
In it, he would call out, “Comaneci!”, then make movements with his hands outlining a V-shape around his crotch. He first came up with this gag when he was talking about how erotic Nadia Comaneci, the Romanian Olympic gymnast, looked in her groin hugging leotard. Takeshi took up a half squatting pose and used his hands to portray this image, while at the same time shouting, “Comaneci!”. This in itself was not at all funny, but for some reason, Takeshi seemed to like it so much that he took to doing it at every opportunity. Soon, his audience joined in with the joke, but it was partly because they were appalled with Takeshi for doing, as one critic said, “Something so ludicrous for someone his age (Takeshi was already in his thirties).” But that was precisely what Takeshi was aiming for, The intention of the Comaneci gag was to stop the public from seeing him as an arrogant man who used his intelligence to spray poison-tongued sarcasm. When he told the joke, Takeshi wasn’t a sarcastic guy with brains, he was one of those lads in the classroom who is always being cheeky to the teachers and getting told off. Like Bart Simpson! That’s why it was kids at kindergarten or at primary school who enjoyed the joke the most. They may not have understood Takeshi’s manzai, but they got the Comaneci gag. They proved it by placing their hands on their groins and being told off by their parents and teachers.
Now, some of you may not know this — Ichiro among you — but Comaneci gained fame by scoring a perfect 10.0 at age 14 during her uneven bars routine at the Summer Olympics in 1976. It was the first time in modern history that a 10.0 had been recorded. Comaneci would add six more 10.0s before the competition ended.
Where were those Olympics held? Why, in my hometown of Montreal.
In fact, Comaneci defected from Romania just before that country’s revolution in 1989 and settled in Montreal. She was still living there when I began working for The Gazette newspaper in the early 1990s and I remember the stories about her new life. She later moved to Oklahoma to be with her future husband and currently resides in Oklahoma City.
So, there you go.