February 6, 2011




The next sumo basho has been canceled over a yaocho scandal. Sumo fans (at least the ones on the sumo chat lists) know about yaocho, and match-by-match it seems like small potatoes. In aggregate, however, it seems like a bigger deal. The next basho has been canceled, as the sumo association tries to figure out who is doing it and punish them.

What bothers me more than the widespread yaocho is the response by the Japan Sumo Association to it, to every scandal. The JSA is only moved by external forces. It never moves to change because it's the right thing to do. Yaocho, pot smoking, beating of young wrestlers by their stablemasters, these were all activities that the JSA knew about and didn't move to stop. These may be relatively common activities, but these aren't parts of the sumo tradition that the fans who pay to see sumo value.

In the upcoming days there will be a typical response. We'll cringe through dozens of apologies. Someone high up in the JSA will be canned. An internal investigation by JSA cronies will excise the smallest number of responsible parties possible and just one who has some name recognition, in order to validate the process. They will hope that the fans come back, but as many of the die-hard elderly fans begin to pass away, the younger fans will expect sumo to become more sport-like.

How long will it take for Takanohana to rise to the top of the JSA and lead it into the modern era?

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