What the hell was that? Never before in my decades as a sumo fan have I had the urge to label and entire basho with such a term. Not even the famous 2017 “Wacky Aki”. I take a few days away from sumo, and this is what happens?
Look, it was bad before I went kyujo for family matters, but good lord did it take a hard left hand turn and head straight for the storm drain. I thank Andy and everyone else who filled in while I attended to dreadful things. But enough of that.
I caught up today, and everyone and their cousin went covid kyujo. They were dropping like flies, with two more right on the final day. It shredded the torikumi, and the schedule, and the ranking, and Aki’s banzuke, and crap, just about everything. The kyokai really painted themselves into a corner with their COVID policy. They never updated it after the initial strain, not once taking into account the kind of things an Omicron variant can do. Let me share something with you. BA5, currently the world wide flavor, more virulent than measles. You get within a few feet of someone with that stuff, guess what, you now have it too. Not that it’s going to do much other than give you the sniffles in most cases, but hey – its still COVID and can hurt you.
So the NSK got hoisted by their own policy. One positive test, whole stable sits it out. Thats all good when it’s one or two, but when you lose a third of your talent, you are reduced to this kind of circus disguised as sumo.
They had to bring a fair portion of Juryo up to fight on senshuraku in the top division, just to fill in the air time. They had to backfill Juryo with Makushita guys just so the folks left in Juryo had an opponent. The wheels feel off this basho in the last 3 days. I think the ultimate example of the train-wreck that was Nagoya 2022 was the Hoshoryu – Midorifuji match. A Komusubi fighting an M11 for the third to last match of the basho. And then they completely blow the call and give the match to Midorifuji when the top of his foot is on the clay while Hoshoryu is still in bounds. Granted, I think Hoshoryu’s attitude needs attenuation, but this is not the way to do it.
I worry for the mental health of the banzuke committee. It can’t be anything more than this: 1) Drink a LOT 2) Try your best 3) Pretend it’s the result of hours of cloistered study and some of the best minds in sumo. 4) Conclude by drinking and yakitori till sunrise.
Exit question – what are NSK going to do about their jungyo reboot in a couple of weeks?
Hello dear readers, it’s time for me to take a break from Tachiai. I apologise for straying from the theme of this blog, and into personal news.
Just before the start of the tournament, a horrible disaster befell my family. Our second child, who was to be born by July 22nd, died in utero without warning. It came as a shock to all, as the baby was healthy, good sized and developing well. Multiple examinations, scans, ultrasounds and all of that showed zero abnormalities.
With the paperwork finally done, the body of my second child has been released to us for burial. He will be laid to rest next to his grandparents in rural Illinois.
During this time when I attend to my family, the rest of Team Tachiai will be providing daily coverage, and I thank them for stepping in. I will return to writing prior to the Aki basho in September.
It’s time for one last discussion of the funnel from me this basho. At the end of today, the funnel narrows quite a bit, and so the goal is to steer as many as possible to a 6-6 score today. True you can get someone to 7-5 and then try to hand them 2 losses, but that seems to be less likely than to keep them on a win-one, lose-one tempo that the schedulers have been trying to maintain. Right now there are twenty (20!) rikishi in the sweet spot of 5-6 or 6-5. Absolutely brutal.
Of course any rikishi can escape the funnel just by winning more matches, or losing them. The funnel consume those that can’t quite give any more on the clay, and are stuck looking like they are just “going through the motions”. The real make or break day will be Saturday, when the schedulers need to make sure the 7-6 and 6-7 scores all end up in the right place. I would guess we could have as many as six Darwin matches on day 15.
With all of the COVID kyujo, we are down to 18 matches in the top division from 21 on day 1.
Day eleven did a fantastic job of narrowing down the leader board, giving us 2 men at 9-2 in the lead, and a group of 4 at 8-3 waiting in the wings. For the schedulers, its time to see if they can get dirt on the two leaders and notch up the hype around the race to the cup. Looking at the matches today, it looks like they are not wasting any time getting that project underway.
Yutakayama vs Kagayaki – Look who it is! Kagayaki gets a second visit to the top division. At 6-5 and ranked Juryo 3e, he may be harboring dreams of a rapid return to the top division. But right now his score is just as middling as all of the other salaried ranks, so he should think again. He does have a 9-6 career advantage over 5-6 Yutakayama, so maybe he can knock Shodai’s stablemate out of what’s left of the funnel.
Onosho vs Chiyoshoma – With Onosho at 6-5 and Chiyoshoma at 5-6, the goal is to have them both finish the day at 6-6. Chiyoshoma has not been consistent in his sumo this July, and it’s anyone’s guess how this one will end up. I do note that he and Onosho at a 5-4 career record that has a 1 win advantage for Chiyoshoma, but Chiyoshoma has won the last 3 matches in a row. The most recent one was January of this year.
Daiamami vs Takarafuji – With Daiamami deeply make-koshi and headed lower, they are using him to donate wins to rikishi they want to keep their score up. In the case of his opponent today, 5-6 Takarafuji, he needs a win here to stay in the funnel, so its Daiamami and his gimpy ankle to the rescue.
Chiyomaru vs Midorifuji – This should be kachi-koshi day for Midorifuji, as he is up against a 3-8 Chiyomaru who has already booked passage on the Juryo barge of the damned. He just needs to increase his 1-0 career score over Chiyomaru to take him his 8th win today.
Chiyotairyu vs Myogiryu – 21 career matches between these two, with Myogiryu at 7-4 to start the day against Chiyotairyu’s 6-5. A Myogiryu win is kachi-koshi for him, but pushes Chiyotairyu back into the middle of the funnel. A Chiyotairyu win puts him one whit star to go with 3 days left in the basho.
Oho vs Meisei – Possibly kachi-koshi day for Oho, a win here against Meisei and he will have his 8. At 6-5, Meisei can pull himself out of the funnel with a win today, or drop back to 6-6 with a loss to remain in the neck of the this July’s funnel.
Tochinoshin vs Nishikifuji – First ever meet up, and I am curious to see if Nishikifuji’s “oversized sumo” works against Tochinoshin, who is (lets face it) larger than life in most cases. Nishikifuji is already kachi-koshi at 8-3, but I am expecting him to get at least 2 more wins before the end of day 15 and finish double digits. Tochinoshin is at 6-5 and very much one of the Darwin candidates.
Endo vs Shimanoumi – Another battle of the make-koshi, with 2-9 Endo looking for a few more wins to keep away from a double digit losing record. He’s likely to find one today from 1-10 Shimanoumi, who seems too banged up to overpower anyone right now.
Terutsuyoshi vs Sadanoumi – This one interests me, as it seems that they could have found a better opponent for Terutsuyoshi today. I would think they want him to pick up a win and end the day 6-6, but there is a strong case that 3-8 Sadanoumi has a solid formula for winning against him, as he has the last 2 of their 3 fights.
Tamawashi vs Tsurugisho – It delighted me that Tamawashi halted his losing streak at 7 yesterday, but I have a lot of confidence that he is going to be deeply make-koshi this July because of some injury we sumo fans know nothing about. That may explain how he drew Tsurugisho today, in hopes that Tsurugisho can pick a win and finish the day 6-6.
Tobizaru vs Ichinojo – The first big match of the day. 8-3 Tobizaru’s job is to get 9-2 Ichinojo down. I don’t think he will be able to force him out, so he will need to try and win by guile, agility and sheer crazy ass sumo. Should he succeed, it will knock Ichinojo out of the leader position he shares with Terunofuji. He holds a 4-2 lead over Ichinojo on the clay.
Kiribayama vs Ura – Does Ura get to deliver a make-koshi to Kiribayama today? I don’t worry about Kiribayama at all right now. He’s going to be a big deal as long as he can avoid serious injury, and these crummy basho scores are part of the learning process. An Ura win would take him to 6-6 and put him square into the lane for a Darwin match on Sunday.
Hoshoryu vs Hokutofuji – Oh goodie – both men are 6-5 to start the day. Hokutofuji can push Hoshoryu back to 6-6 and queue him up for the Darwin run by just bashing the daylights out of him with some brutal nodowa sumo today. Sadly he has never done that, failing to win a single match from Hoshoryu in 4 attempts. Winner likely exits the funnel.
Wakamotoharu vs Abi – Well, we had a pair of 6-5’s, now it’s time for a pair of 5-6 rikishi. Winner centers to 6-6 and walks the Darwin path, loser likely headed for make-koshi by Sunday. Abi has won their 2 prior matches, but I am not sure that will matter for much today.
Wakatakakage vs Okinoumi – Time to save Wakatakakage, it seems. He has a 3-0 record against Okinoumi, and at 6-5 he needs 2 wins out of the last 4 days to keep his Sekiwake slot. At one point a couple of weeks ago there was serious Ozeki hype around him. Hopefully he did not believe that noise. Most rikishi stumble their first attempt to get to Ozeki, it’s part of the process.
Takakeisho vs Nishikigi – This match is for fun and rank, as both are kachi-koshi at 8-3. Takakeisho has a 4-1 advantage over Nishikigi, and this might be thought of as a “gimmie” match for Takakeisho, except that Nishikigi insists on going chest to chest early, grappling his opponent and using that sumo body of his to control his opponent. This is absolute kryptonite to Takakeisho. So I think the schedulers matched these two to see if Nishikigi could pull it off.
Aoiyama vs Shodai – What’s Aoiyama doing all the way up here? Who cares, two guys with out-sized bodies trying to get the other one to leap into the front row. Sign me up. If Shodai wins, it’s kachi-koshi for him, and he clears kadoban. An Aoiyama win and he ends the day 6-6 and centered in the funnel.
Terunofuji vs Daieisho – Daieisho has a tall order today, he needs to find a way to get Terunofuji out or down. With his mega-thrust sumo technique, he can in fact move the Yokozuna around, and has managed to do so three in the last year. I expect Terunofuji will focus on defense for the opening moments of this fight, and wait for Daieisho to expend his first couple of combos before he tries to move to offense. A Daieisho loss and he is back in the middle of the funnel.