The Japanese word for match-fixing is 八百長(yaocho). It seems the sporting world has been full of cheating controversies lately. Professional tennis was rocked by allegations right before the Australian Open. Russian track-and-field athletes are facing bans from competition. Rampant corruption at FIFA, including rigged bidding for World Cups and match fixing. Even cycling has been hit with a revelation of technological doping when a German racer was found to have a motor inside the frame of her bicycle.
Sumo is no stranger to this controversy. And occasionally I get the sense that, “oh, this match or that match didn’t look to be on the up-and-up.” I think the main thing people don’t like is when money is involved behind the scenes. There are all kinds of motivational reasons why guys who are 7-7 would fight harder on Day 15 than wrestlers who are 8-6 and just hoping not to get injured.
American professional football teams sit their starting quarterbacks for this reason and I think it’s to be expected that some guys just wouldn’t always give it 100%. The media was shocked when Randy Moss mentioned taking plays off. If he knew the ball wasn’t going to him, he’s ease up. I think it’s kind of natural but it’s also why we hold true competitors in high regard. Along with Hakuho, I think Osunaarashi, Ikioi and Yoshikaze are examples of guys who seem to bring it, 100%, every time. So long as there’s not funny business with people getting paid beforehand, I can deal with guys who take bouts off. It diminishes their standing in my eyes, but it doesn’t take the fun out of the sport.