Sumo was all I'd

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Sumo was all I'd hoped and more. Elizabeth was certainly right about the food. I don't need to cook dinner for at least two nights. The caterer delivered yakitori, sandwiches, soramame (huge steamed beans like limas), bento lunch boxes, beer, sake, wine, and ice cream. Plus a bag full of omiyage (gifts) to take home at the end. Tod will deliver anmitsu (fruit with sweet beans), rice crackers, dango and more to the office today as a way of thanking everyone who covered for him while he took the afternoon off.

But even better than the generous quantities of food was the spectacle of these huge, strong, and graceful athletes, pushing and shoving one another around the dohyo (the sacred ring where the action takes place. No women allowed.) We arrived at the end of the lower levels of wrestlers, and watched the middle ranking juryo (literally it means "10 together" but there are more than ten matches) followed by the maku-uchi--the top wrestlers.

It's difficult to explain the rankings and the process by which one obtains a higher ranking but to reach the highest rank, yokozuna, you must not only be a terrific wrestler, but a man of good character. That's something that American sports franchises might want to consider. There are currently two yokozuna: Musashimaru and Takanohana. Takanohana is unbeaten in this Summer tournament.

Much of the nuance of sumo is incomprehensible to me. There are 82 ways to win a match--mainly variations on pushing, lifting, twisting or dropping your opponent over the ring or to the ground. The judge, who is dressed in a traditional costume that gets more complicated as the ranks rise, has quite a challenging job to determine who wins. He watches carefully but there are also five "line judges" posted around the ring. The five judges can dispute a call. And they did yesterday, coming up on the dohyo and examining footprints and marks on the sand-covered surface. They changed the judge's call. In the old days, the judge would commit harikiri (ritual suicide) when he was wrong. These days, that's not part of the game.

Commerical sponsorship for sports dates back a long time. Although the sumo stadium isn't named "Sony Stadium", matches are sponosred by companies who offer extra prizes and have they banners walked around the ring. Wrestlers are sponsored, too, and the lovely aprons that they wear are actually advertisements for their sponsors. One wrestler, who is from St. Louis, is sponsored by Budweiser. His apron shows the Clydesdale horses.

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