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2015 Aki Pre-basho Report

I could probably write a pre-basho report this month and then copy and paste it for the next six tournaments, and you wouldn't even tell the difference because I think the way the rikishi are ordered here in September will remain quite static for the foreseeable future. It took all of one basho for Ozeki Terunofuji to assume his rightful spot in the tier 1 East slot, and so that means the top four rikishi on the banzuke are legit in Hakuho, Kakuryu, Harumafuji, and Terunofuji.

After those four, I think you can safely say that the next best rikishi in the sport are Tochiohzan, Myogiryu, and Tochinoshin...and not necessarily in that order since Shin is easily the fifth best guy right now. Okinoumi is out of place in the West Komusubi slot, but right after him you have Aoiyama. Osunaarashi is where he belongs at M2 since he's yet to really prove himself for fifteen days among the jo'i , and then M4 Ichinojo and M5 Kaisei are vastly under ranked. Once we get through Kaisei, I think the next best rikishi are Kisenosato and then Goeido with M4 Takarafuji in the mix somewhere, and that's basically the rikishi in the division that anyone cares about.

Before I get to the rikishi individually, I'd be remiss if I didn't acknowledge the retirement of former Sekiwake Wakanosato also known as "The Gangstuh" in these parts. What the Sumo Association wouldn't give right now to have Don Sato in his prime. The way things work these days, he'd be a legit candidate for Yokozuna. Wakanosato was a bitch at the belt, and I can't recall the dude ever resorting to a tachi-ai henka. He was everything you wanted in a rikishi, and they just don't make 'em like they used to unfortunately. Well, let me rephrase that: they just don't make 'em in Japan like they used to. If Sumotalk had an arena with rafters, Wakanosato's jersey would be raised up high alongside the likes of Tosanoumi and Homasho.

I was somewhat amused a few days ago when I saw newly-crowned oyakata in Wakanosato and Kyokutenho going through their basic training. Dressed in that drab navy jacket and comely slacks, the former rikishi were learning how to use the fire hoses in the Ryogoku Kokugikan. I looked at the pictures, and the two oyakata were just going through the motions looking straight ahead as if to say, "You really need photos of this?" They were either thinking that or 'what's the use of learning how to use these hoses? There certainly aren't any fires to put out surrounding the Japanese rikishi these days.' (Ba-da-boom!).  I do admit, though, that I'm jealous of their sick walkie talkies.

Another amusing theme I saw in the funny papers was the phrase "Stop The Terunofuji!". When I first started working in Japan, I learned early on that the Japanese like to use the phrase "Sutoppu-za," or "Stop The" and then attach whatever they want to stop at the end of that. The first poster I ever saw was "Sutoppu-za Aidoringu," or "Stop the idling" making reference to cars stopped at red lights who don't turn off their ignition while they wait for the light to change.

The context in this case was that the Japanese Ozeki are going to make a push to "stop the Terunofuji" and not let him hold onto that prestigious East slot so easily. Are they serious? Actually, they're not serious, but if they can use the phrase enough times in the media, then it gives the Japanese fans the impression that their Ozeki have a shot against Terunofuji when in reality, they couldn't hold his jock.

It reminds me a lot of global warming. You say it enough and you get enough prominent people to buy in, the masses will buy into anything with a complicit media. You don't hear the term "global warming" anymore because, well, the globe ain't warming. So now the term has morphed into "climate change," or "seasons" as the folk like to say in Utah. I know, I know, you're saying "But scientists and scholars everywhere have proven that global warming or climate change exists." And media and experts everywhere report with a straight face that Kotoshogiku legitimately won eight bouts at a tournament.

Here's how you know that the ice caps aren't melting and the sea levels aren't rising: the price of beach front property ain't gettin' any cheaper. If people actually believed that the sea levels were rising, then the price of property at sea level would be depreciating in tow. It's simple analytical reasoning and common sense, and so when I see this huge push in the Japanese media where multiple outlets are using this coined term like "Stop the Terunofuji," I know that what they're really doing is creating the perception that the Japanese Ozeki can stop Terunofuji.

As is the case with global warming, you say it over and over and over and plenty of people will start accepting the claims as fact. I see such a parallel in the way that sumo results and climate change are sold to the masses. As for me, you know how I feel about the sumo, and when it comes to the effect human beings have on the planet, I always like to defer to the late, great George Carlin and this stupendous rant.

Science to me is this:

And the last time I checked that, the temperature at the south pole was a balmy -78 degrees Celsius.

What science isn't is a professor at some university who makes claims based on an agenda in exchange for future government grants and funding. But we all know that money talks whether it's making up the weather forecast 50 - 100 years in advance when they can't seem to master the seven-day forecast, or whether it comes to influencing a bout of sumo.  I guess I'm rambling on and on because how seriously can you take the banzuke when Kisenosato, Goeido, and Kotoshogiku are portrayed as 3 of the top 7 rikishi in sumo?

If we must, let's start at the top where the four Mongolians check in at their proper ranks. Nothing has changed in regards to Yokozuna Hakuho. He's as dominant as ever, and he holds all the keys to basho. I do get the sense that he's going to start spreading the wealth around a bit more to his other Mongolian friends in terms of the yusho, and so I'd say Hakuho's chances of hogging the yusho all for himself are at about 60%. If he tries his hardest, the percentage shoots up to the high nineties, but Yokozuna is a cooperative fella, and so I'll tout him as the favorite to yusho this basho, but I think chances are good that he lets another Mongolian take it.

And that's fine with me. Let's see who the best man is among Kakuryu, Harumafuji, and Terunofuji. Terunofuji easily has the most potential and should score at least as many yusho as Harumafuji and Kakuryu put together, but the youngster has to learn how to win the tachi-ai against the elite rikishi. Until he stops allowing moro-zashi from the tachi-ai, he's going to struggle against Hakuho and Kakuryu. I think all three Mongolians have stellar basho largely by default. I mean, whose gonna stop them from lower in the ranks? Look for the threesome to each give up a timely loss in week one but to finish down the stretch as jun-yusho candidates or perhaps the yusho winner. My predictions for the four are as follows:

Hakuho: 13-2
Terunofuji: 13-2
Harumafuji: 12-3
Kakuryu: 12-3

I'm not even going to bother with the Ozeki this time, so let's skip down to the Sekiwake ranks occupied by Tochiohzan to the East and Myogiryu to the West. I'm a firm believer that the media spins the Sumo Association agenda, and from what I can tell, we are being primed for at least one of these guys to make a run at Ozeki. Kotoshogiku can't keep this up much longer, and when he goes, you've got to have a Japanese guy right there to take his place, so let's let Tochiohzan and Myogiryu duel for the honors. With Tochiohzan the more established rikishi, I like him to win around 10 bouts in September as long as he doesn't face any pressure situations. I see Myogiryu hovering around 8 - 9 wins because with Harumafuji back and healthy, it's gonna be really tough for anyone to beat the top four legitimately.

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