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2011 Haru Basho
Pre-basho ReportHelmut Newton sumo.
We've received some inquiries, and
there has been some speculation as to why Sumotalk hasn't been updating its news
page very often over the last month, especially considering sumo is in the midst
of its most devastating scandal in history. I suppose the reasons for the lack
of updates would be threefold.
First, there hasn't been any real news since it was announced that the Haru
basho was cancelled. The scapegoats have already been named, the March
tournament has been cancelled, and now the concerned parties are hunkered down
going through fierce negotiations. This is how you know in Japan when the dust
has begun to settle and it's time for negotiations among the NSK, government,
the police, and yes, even the media to begin: a certain catch phrase or official
name for something emerges and everyone begins to use it.
For example, when Tokitaizan was beat to death, the official phrase was "kyushi
mondai," or sudden death incident. In the case of the current incident, it's the
catch phrase, "umi wo dashite, yari-naosu." "Umi wo dasu" is one of the greatest
phrases ever. It literally means to discharge pus. "Yari-naosu," which is
clearly the lesser of the two halves means to "start over." So put them together
and it basically means rid the Association of its corruption and start over
fresh. Anyway, once I heard the rikishi, the oyakata, the commissioner, and even
government folk begin to use the pus reference, I knew that the initial fervor
was over, and that all sides would begin to dig in and negotiate.
Second, if you're an avid reader of Sumotalk over the years, then this yaocho
revelation isn't news at all. In fact, I'd suggest that there were plenty more
yaocho that we didn't address on the website. At times, it was like beating a
dead horse, and we also knew that such candid talk of bout fixing made a lot of
our readers extremely uncomfortable. If I had a nickel for every time we
discussed a thrown bout behind the scenes and then opted not to post it in the
daily comments as to avoid overkill, I'd be at least $1.75 richer.
And third, probably the biggest reason there have been no updates the last month
is because our guy that does the news page is off enjoying life. There are kids
to raise, slopes to ski, money to lose in the stock market, a
little league baseball season approaching, youth groups who need attention, a
job to attend to, and in those rare yet priceless moments, friends with whom to
sit back and laugh about good times.
Sumotalk will never close its doors regardless of how scarred the Sumo
Association becomes or how bad the sumo gets, and the biggest reason for that is
I simply enjoy the camaraderie with the fellas too much to close up shop. Well,
that and the fact that we have so many critics out there who I just love to
annoy by being right all the time.
It's been an interesting ride sitting in this seat for the past 8 + years. I
vividly remember working in an Intel computer lab that was so cold we actually
started using the empty space to hang meat. At the time I was furiously trading
emails with Kenji as we discussed ideas for the site...everything from its name
(it was almost called www.thebestdamnsumositeontheweb.com) to the trivia page
(remember that one old schoolers?). I was developing mock-up pages using
Microsoft Word of all applications and posting the content to free server space
on AOL, and I must say, the website really looked crappy in those days! Not much
has changed in the crap department 8 years later, but I still remember one of my
goals with Sumotalk was to create a site that looked professional enough that
media outlets would actually contact us for comments when sumo found itself in
the worldwide news (for the record, the BBC bit first when Asashoryu snuck back
to Mongolia unannounced and missed the former Takasago-oyakata's funeral).
It's interesting to look back over the years and note how the site and even the
content of the reports have changed. For example, a lot of our ideas when we
created Sumotalk are now exiled pages here or there gathering more mold and grit
than a frat house shower. Along with the changes, a fair number of contributors
have also come and gone, but through it all my favorite part of Sumotalk is the
interaction with sumo fans around the world, including a select few who have
even become contributors along with Kenji and myself.
Sumotalk was ultimately created because I couldn't find any other web site or
media outlet that produced the kind of sumo reports that I wanted to read. In
the mid-nineties, I relied heavily on Andy Adams and his write-ups in the Japan
Times and his bi-monthly sumo magazine to create my general basis and knowledge
of the sport. Over time, however, Andy disappeared, and I eventually moved back
to the States but not before having gained a fair amount of knowledge regarding
sumo, and perhaps more importantly, a knowledge of Japanese culture and how
At the end of the nineties and the beginning of the aughties, Kenji and I
continued to exchange emails and talk about sumo. The internet had also
exploded, so I remember scouring the net for any information or commentary on
sumo other than what a typical disinterested beat reporter would provide. When I
couldn't find anything to stimulate me (still talking about sumo reports here,
sickos), the idea began to form that I could create my own sumo website and
provide commentary that was completely absent at the start of the millennium.
I wanted the website to employ elements of journalism and creativity that I
thoroughly enjoyed watching in the news and reading in other peoplesí writing.
Looking back, I can cite several concrete influences that have made Sumotalk
what it is today (ESPN's Sportscenter, The Simpsons, and yes, even Beavis and
Butthead). Knowing that, readers may be able to identify where jokes, nicknames,
parodies, and even the potty humor come from. I know it's not everyone's cup of
tea and that people sometimes get annoyed by all the irreverence, but I write to
entertain people who want their sumo information fast, concise, correct, and
sprinkled with just enough deadpan humor to make them chortle along the way.
November 2012 will mark the 10th anniversary of Sumotalk, and to celebrate, I
had been planning to run a series of articles talking about the history of the
site (similar to what Iíve done here) and to also post some of my favorite
reports over the years. But 8.3 is the new 10 if you havenít heard, so in the
absence of the Haru basho, Iím going to celebrate the 8.3 year anniversary of
Sumotalk by posting "best of" articles during the 15 days that would have been
this yearís Haru basho.
On some days, Iíll post full reports, on other days Iíll talk about a
particularly good basho for us and post snippets of reports, and yet on other
days I will talk about each of the contributors and post what I think was some
of their best work. Sumotalk has become sort of a culture, so hopefully some of
the things I post this month will shed light on long running jokes and give the
readers some insight into Sumotalk behind the scenes. Iíve also asked Clancy to
help me compile this mess, and we will preface each day by adding a bit of
At worst, it will give everyone some filler to get through this month without an
actual tournament and give you insight into what I treasure about Sumotalk. At
best, it will make you laugh and want to come back for more.
See you all on Day 1!