7.2.11

Scandals in Sumō

I never had too much interest in Baseball, and to be honest I am completely uninterested in American Football. Basketball bores me and most other popular sports like Golf, Tennis and the rest just put me to sleep. I rather like soccer but don't have enough interest in it to follow the careers of players or memorise team stats.

After spending the vast majority of my years hating sports in general I was really happy to find one about which I'm genuinely excited, and that fully captures my interest to the point where I'm disappointed when I've missed the televised events.

The sport that I love is Sumō! Every year I really love watching every televised match of each of the four annual tournaments. I enjoy keeping up with the wrestlers' statistics and watching their careers develop. I get excited about the history of Sumō and hearing about the achievements of the retired champs in comparison to the those of the up-and-comers.

Having explained this, I can scarcely find the right words to describe the disappointment I've been feeling after learning of the recent scandals and schemes that have plagued the only sport I love. The tragedies started this past summer when upper-ranking (ōzeki) wrestler 琴光喜 (Kotomitsuki) was expelled from the Sumō Association for his involvement in an illegal gambling ring that ran bets on professional baseball. Now, just yesterday it was announced that the 2011 Spring Tournament has been cancelled due to the latest scam, known as the 大相撲八百長問題 (Ōzumō Yaochō Mondai / Sumō game-fixing problem) in which wrestlers participated in match-fixing in exchange for financial reimbursement. 3 lower-mid-level wrestlers have been found to have incriminating text messages on their phones proving that they're guilty of the crime. Unsurprisingly, both the baseball gambling ring and the match-fixing problem have direct ties to the Yakuza, bringing further disgrace to the time-honoured sport of Sumō.

I don't know what the future holds for Sumō, but for now, there a lots of hard-working, honest people and fans who are greatly impacted by the cancellation of this year's Spring Tournament. Tickets were already being sold, preparations already being made, and excitement already building. Hopefully we'll still have the summer to look forward to. Hopefully the wrestlers who are sincere and honest still have bright careers to look forward to. Hopefully those that have ideas about participating in any shady activities will pull themselves together and steer clear of any wrong-doing. It would pain me greatly to see such a treasured tradition fall into the depths of shame and dishonour. I'm sure there are others who feel the same as I do, and probably many more who carry feelings that are even more impassioned than mine.

The poster used as the image for this post is about the investigation into the current match-fixing scheme. The title reads, 元大鳴戸親方『八百長―相撲協会一刀両断 (Gen Ōnaruto-oyakata 「Yaochō - Sumō Kyoukai Itten Ryōdan」). Doing my best translate this (after getting a little help from my wife), it would say, "Sumo Association Elder, Naruto-oyakata on Match-fixing - Getting Straight to the Core Issues."*

*Note: "Naruto-oyakata" is the proper way to address the current Japan Sumo Association Elder and head coach of the Naruto Stable, 隆の里俊英 (Takanosato Toshihide).

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