Thursday, July 26, 2007
State of the Nations
As Loosen Up is the only DC sports blog to offer in-depth, knowledgeable commentary on sumo, I'll pick up where Lil Bro left off.
First, while it may seem that the US season of scandalous sports has spread to Japan, let's review the facts:
America's scandals revolve around a decade or more of cheating left unchecked and ignored in the national pastime, an indictment of a deliberate pattern of brutality against one of the NFL's most exciting, if not most effective, stars, and point-shaving by an NBA ref, possibly influencing the outcomes of games. In Japan, a sumo rikishi begged off of a charity tournament to spend some quality-time back in his home country with his peeps. Hmmm, sounds like Brett Favre trying to get out of training camp. In all, I think it says more about the differences between the two countries than the similarities.
Sumo consists of six 15-day tournaments every year. Everything else is preseason-game, half-speed, no-pads, baby-kissing. So Asashoryu, the most dominant wrestler nowadays, and a Mongolian-born outsider at that, simply missed a PR event.
The accusation of bout-fixing by a seedy sensationalist newspaper citing unnamed sources, seems specious. See excellent commentary provided by the grand dame of sumo, Doreen Simmons: http://www.japanfile.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=495 and a summary by fellow blogger Ethan Zuckerman: http://ethanzuckerman.com/blog/category/sumo/
The jist of both articles are that these accusations are just another sign that some Japanese jingoists don't like having a Mongolian at the highest rank of sumo. Sumo is old school. Baseball is old school American style, just over 100 years old. Old school Japan-style is 1500 years of tradition, tradition now threatened by an unfortunate decline in interest by young Japanese, drawn to the more modern sports of basketball and soccer. The dearth of homegrown talent has been filled by bringing in foreigners, the huge Americans Konishiki, Akebono, and Musashimaru in the late 80's and 90's, and now an influx of Mongolians, along with a smattering of Eastern Europeans, like Bulgarian Kotooshu, pictured above. Currently, the only two yokuzuna are Mongolian, Asashoryu and rival Hakuho. The traditionalists can't like that, just as many of them chafed at Akebono's (6'8 Hawaiian Chad Rowan) promotion to the highest rank in the 1993.
But the Americans of the early 90's had tremendous competition from Japanese wrestlers, the brother tandem of Wakanohana and Takanohana. Today's Mongol invaders, with their eye of the tiger and tricky, skilled techniques derived from their native "boke" wrestling, face no such opposition. Unless one counts unsubstantiated newspaper reports. Till facts surface, that's where this one lies. No need to get our mawashis in a bunch.
Here's some video.
Each rikishi fights one match per day, for 15 days. Best record at the end wins the tournament.
Here is a spirited Dejima pulling off an upset of our boy Asashoryu: http://banzuke.com/~makuuchi/3-Y1e_Asashoryu(2-0)_M1w_Dejima(1-1).mov
Rikishi are often classified as either ones who specialize in lifting and throwing and those who mostly push -- while striking with a closed fist is illegal, open-palmed slaps are GAME ON! I always rooted for the slappers myself.
Here's spunky little Ama getting into a slapfest with Toyonoshima: http://banzuke.com/~makuuchi/14-M4e_Ama(8-5)_M9w_Toyonoshima(11-2).mov Nice leg throw by Ama!
Here Tochiazuma is too much for our pal Ama: http://banzuke.com/~makuuchi/haru07/day3/O3w_Tochiazuma-K1e_Ama.mov
Asashoryu pulls out a trick against Chiyotaikai. Tee hee! http://banzuke.com/~makuuchi/haru07/day15/Y1e.mov
Asashoryu clobbering some poor sap: http://banzuke.com/~makuuchi/natsu/day8/Y1eAsashoryuK1wKotoshogiku.mov
From the archives --
It would be fun to see these new guys try to handle 6'8, 550 lb. Akebono. Here Japanese golden boy Takanohana and his brother Wakanohana try. And fail. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0FXVzaNX2PA&mode=related&search=