When taking on an important, highly visible, challenging new job, it’s a good idea to perform well on your first couple of days. You know, something impressive like radically overhauling regulations regarding lobbyists, or ordering the shutdown of a prison associated with shameful miscarriages of justice.
Losing your first four matches as an ozeki? Not the recommended way to start a new job.
Like most sumo fans, I’d been looking forward to Harumafuji’s (née Ama) first basho with his heavyweight new name. Who knew? Adding four syllables and two kanjii was enough to slow down the lightweight yet badass Mongolian sufficiently for him to lose his first four matches as an ozeki. That’s a lot of losses, especially for a guy who went 12-3 in his last tournament.
Given my fondness for the dude, I’ve kept my head down, only posting about this tournament now that the little big man has recovered to a 6-6 record and a winning tournament looks to be in sight. I’m vaguely reassured by the fact that he’s not the most embarrasing Ozeki in the tournament – that dishonor goes to Kotomitsuki, who’s 2-10, and who got thoroughly spanked by Harumafuji yesterday. Indeed, Harumafuji has – as is his sometimes ugly pattern – kicked the asses of high ranking rikishi (Ozekis Kaio and Chiyotaikai as well as Yokozuna Hakuho) while losing to mediocre ones.
The one high-ranking rikishi Harumafuji was unable to handle was Yokozuna Asashoryu, who’s 12-0 and thoroughly in charge, as Jordan notes. This is a big surprise to the sumo establishment. Asa’s sumo last year was pretty dreadful, and he pulled out of two tournaments with injury and sat out the November basho. As recently as a couple weeks ago, the wise men of sumo were predicting he’d pull out of this tournament and be pressured towards retirement. His training bouts were weak, and he looked unprepared for the tournament “Based on his performance [at my stable, training with top wrestlers], he won’t last the 15 days,” Isegahama (former yokozuna Asahifuji) said. “It would probably be better for him not to take part.”
Right. The truth may be that Asashoryu is so phenomenally good that, when he’s focused and uninjured, he’s a force of nature, even when he’s not training well. Or perhaps sumo – like most things in life – is wonderful in part because it defies the experts. You’d be hard pressed to find an NFL analyst who would have predicted the Arizona Cardinals to make it to the Superbowl. One of the most successful yokozuna in recent memory seems like a much safer bet than a 37-year old Kurt Warner.
Three days left. My fingers are crossed for kachi-koshi for Harumafuji, a 14-1 tie between Hakuho and Asashoryu leading to a playoff match, and for Obama’s next 98 days to be as impressive as his first two. Oh, and not finishing last in SumoTalk’s virtual sumo league.
A guy can hope, right?