The next word on sumo
Posted by ampontan on Sunday, February 13, 2011
LAST WEEK, some readers took me to task for using hyperbole in two posts about the revelations of match-fixing in sumo. One cited the line that everyone above the age of 10 knew about yaocho.
Yes, that was an exaggeration for effect, but I wasn’t far off. The Kyodo news agency conducted a telephone poll on Friday and Saturday. Here are some of the results.
76%.1: Thought match-fixing was prevalent before the story broke
18.6%: Did not think yaocho existed
27.8%: Think match-rigging is inevitable
One of the crusader rabbits at the Japan Times jumped on the back of the hobgoblin, writing that sumo should be shut down for the year and that its controlling body should be placed in private hands. And some people thought I was exaggerating? That’s what journos do for a living.
The publication printed a letter in reply from Tom Quinn, now in California. Mr. Quinn was one of the English-language sumo broadcasters for nine years on NHK. He writes:
“Early on I was taught by someone within the sumo world how to look at certain aspects of a particular match to see if it was on the level. Once I knew what to look for, I could predict the match winner from the beginning, a helpful skill for announcing.
“Having said that, I think the so-called yaocho scandal these days is a bit overblown.”
“I even have doubts about whether it’s a true “sport.” Still, it remains my favorite athletic activity to watch. And I don’t think that bringing in some promotional outfit to oversee this world would work on any level.
“I believe that the Japan Sumo Association will take care of this problem.”
Wishful thinking? We’ll see.
The Kyodo survey also asked whether people considered sumo a sport, but the Japan Times couldn’t find the space for those numbers:
15.9%: It’s a sport
57.2%: It’s traditional culture
25.3%: Can’t say for sure
Note that Mr. Quinn still enjoys watching sumo, despite knowing for many years how to predict the outcome of certain matches and thinking that yaocho will always exist to some degree.
He’s not the only one who’ll continue to watch. Here are some more numbers from the Kyodo poll that didn’t appear in the Japan Times. The subjects were asked whether they would watch sumo when it started again.
42.5%: Want to watch it
14.6%: Don’t want to watch it
40.5%: Don’t watch it to begin with
After it was revealed that the spring tournament would be cancelled, another reader wrote in to chide me for calling it a “two-day teapot tempest”. The spring tournament is one of six held during the year.
OK then: Does “two-month teapot tempest” work better?