Saturday, December 8, 2007

Sumo in America? Fat Chance.

It’s too easy to poke fun of sumo wrestlers. But that has never stopped me before.

The sport of sumo is in serious trouble. Its biggest (ha!) star, Asashoryu, recently forfeited his place in a major tournament, citing various injuries.

But just a few days later, he played in a charity soccer match, during which he performed what the Times of London called, “extraordinary acrobatic leaps.”

Sumo wrestlers define honor, machismo, and toughness in Japan. Playing soccer is harmful enough to that image. But doing a triple lutz during the match? When you’re supposed to be injured?

No wonder Asashoryu had to spend three months in exile.

Then of course there was the teenage sumo wrestler had died after being beaten with a baseball bat and burned with cigarettes as part of his training program. Japanese were shocked to discover this sort of thing was common practice.

And lots of people are becoming more and more irritated at the fact that women are not allowed in the ring – not just for competition, but for any purpose whatsoever. A woman would not even be allowed to sweep up after a match, because her presence would be considered a defilement.

So it should be no surprise that Sumo has been hemorrhaging fans even faster than John McCain.

But one more recent, gut-wrenching revelation has hurt even worse: it turns out sumo wrestlers don’t really “wrestle,” as much as they simply try to push each other out of a circle.

Ouch. And we thought baseball was in trouble.

Fortunately, a national hero (me) has come forward with a comprehensive, three-step plan to save sumo wrestling’s image and broaden its appeal internationally, just like baseball has survived by attracting fans from such foreign lands as Asia, Latin America, Texas, and the planet Roido.

Step 1: Give them some decent clothes. In spite of its powerful train-wreck allure, most Americans can’t bear to watch sumo wrestling because they don’t trust that those thong diapers will stay in place.

Step 2: Incorporate sumo into our political process. Why not renew the public’s interest in democracy while we’re at it?

Picture Hillary and Obama each crouching in four-point stances, staring with intense focus across the ring. Then the whistle blows, and they rush forward and collide, chests first. A flurry of pushing, grunting and slapping ensues before one of them finally starts to think maybe being in Congress wasn’t so bad after all.

Why should low center of gravity not be the most important quality in a presidential candidate?

It’s no worse than how we settled the 2000 election.

Step 3: Market sumo to children. Sports are pushed on kids at younger and younger ages, which stems from government studies that come out every two weeks complaining about the collective flabbiness of our youth.

If it’s true that kids would rather sit around and gain weight, why not introduce them to a sport that requires just that? It’s a win-win.

As you can see, this process doesn’t just rescue an ancient Japanese sport; it improves the lives of everyday Americans, as well – especially those who already think of Hillary Clinton as a defilement.

All right, on second thought, let’s just forget the whole thing.

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