Sponsors Withdraw Kenshokin

Thanks to my wife and Reddit, I was tipped off to the fact that 200 banners have been pulled from the tournament because of the 3 absent yokozuna. My wife sent me this link to the Asahi article. When I checked Reddit, the same article was also cited there. Reddit commenter u/saleph also linked to another article showing Takayasu as the top kensho recipient for this tournament. As I mentioned in the comments of Bruce’s previous post, this is a bit disappointing and should also clarify for us viewers that sponsorship money is another pressure for sekitori, particularly Yokozuna.

Takayasu: Aki Kensho King

I say disappointed because as I fan, I feel excited for this tournament – possibly more excited than if ALL the wrestlers were competing. With injured wrestlers out, we will see better quality matches, not just in this tournament, but next tournament as our yokozuna hopefully return healthy…or at least moderately healthy. Also, for this basho, the door is wide open for more competitors to grab a yusho or really impress. I would think this would be a prime time for sponsors to engage tadpoles rather than withhold funding. It would also be when I would think loyal sponsors would step up and continue to support their injured stars. Endo used to attract a ton of sponsorship money but when he went to Juryo, the money dried up and it does not seem to have returned. Perhaps that’s why he’s not gone kyujo, though I’m hopeful he’s genuinely healthy enough to compete.

All of my predictions from the podcast were probably totally wrong…especially my hopes for a 40th Hakuho yusho. But I am so jazzed for this basho, it isn’t funny. I really have no idea what’s going to happen. Will King Kinboshi (Harumafuji) fall out of contention in the first week? Or zen-sho yusho? My odds would be even money on both. Who will drop off the leadership pack by next weekend? Any of the ozeki? Which maegashira will be in the hunt deep into week two? I have no idea and that’s thrilling me. One Twitter fan tossed out the idea of an Ikioi-yusho…THAT WOULD BE AWESOME.

Senshuraku Incentives

In comments to Bruce’s earlier posts, Leonid, Asashosakari, and coreyyanofsky discussed the strategy of 8-6 wrestlers going into a final day of sumo. It’s harder to break down the decision-making in sumo than it is in the NFL because there are fewer decisions and they’re more subtle. To demonstrate what I mean, if you’re Endo, pushed against the bales by Aoiyama, the decision-making is, “Do I step out?”, Do I give everything – and risk a nasty fall – to spin him around?”, or, “Do I do something in the middle?”

However, managing a football team of 50+ guys, Bill Belichick and his staff face innumerable gameday decisions regarding who plays and how much, not to mention the choices made by those individual players to run their routes. (Note: Auto-correct wants to change this to “Belches,” so I now have a new nickname for my favorite NFL coach.) So, it’s easier to see how Belches and his team react to a game that has less meaning to them than to their opponent. Belches sits players, punts instead of going for it on 4th and 3, and his 3rd string QB lets the clock run out going into halftime instead of spiking the ball to run another play.

Sumo has taken a knock to its reputation from the past yaocho scandals. It’s been alluded to recently on this blog as sumo wrestlers have their cellphones confiscated on match day and yakuza are banned from the premises, and hopefully any influence on the sport. But, in the interest of the sport, how do you get the best action from your wrestlers when giving 100% leads to, and aggravates, so many injuries? To illustrate, I only need to mention two names: Kisenosato & Terunofuji.

The answer is simple: kenshokin, kinboshi bonuses, and special prizes. Unfortunately, for 95% of the wrestlers there is no kenshokin, no matches against Yokozuna, and no eligibility for special prizes. This is why I hope more interest in sumo brings more money and more banners. I want more of those to trickle down the ranks, too. There are great value bouts down in the lower maegashira but my fave, Iki-yoyo, brings it every bout. And I really want the NSK to bring those banners into the 21st Century to encourage more potential sponsors. They need to do more than just quickly walk them around the ring. A web presence would be easy…and for nerds like me it would be a draw.

This is the big reason I wish the NSK didn’t go after Araibira. After all, Araibira got me back into sumo. By sharing THE WHOLE FEED, he gave much more exposure for sponsors than the NSK does, itself. Given the data, even I would add a sponsor/kenshokin page to the site to show which wrestlers are sponsored by which companies. (In my mind, since I wouldn’t be getting the money, it would not count as putting “ads” on this site, especially if I put it on its own page for users to check themselves.)

It’s also tricky with special prizes. Right now, Aoiyama is likely set for a special prize already, while Takayasu is ineligible as an ozeki (hat tip, Herouth for setting me straight). So, kenshokin would be the only added incentive for Takayasu and Aoiyama’s chances of seizing his outsider dreams of yusho may not be great enough to affect his decision-making.

There is one more incentive, but it’s not as tangible as cold, hard, cash. Pride. When I see a great bout on senshuraku between two wrestlers without much else on the line, that sure keeps me coming back. I’ll highlight my favorite PRIDE senshuraku bout tomorrow.

Ichinojo New Kesho Mawashi

Ichinojo has appeared in Baby Star commercials and a cartoon version of him is used on their packaging. Now Baby Star features on his new Kesho Mawashi. At the last tournament, he was sponsored by NiBank, the National Bank of Mongolia.

The Oyatsu Company makes these Baby Star brand ramen chips that are popular among kids in Japan. Oyatsu actually means snack in Japanese. The baby star mascot features on one version of the new Mawashi while Mt. Fuji features on the other with the Oyatsu Company’s name written out in Japanese below the picture.

I’m actually not sure why they haven’t made it to the US, yet, since legit ramen is finally becoming “a thing”. My son loves the chips but I’ve never had them. I will try to remember to have some next time we travel back to Japan.