Over the first third of the basho, I have been on the edge of my seat as Homasho and Okinoumi surpassed my expectations in the M1 crux (yokozuna, ozeki, and sanyaku). But as these stories unfolded, I came to see sumo in terms of crux bouts and non-crux bouts (see my musings yesterday concerning how in sumo, you are either in the crux or you ARE the crux).
Dreams of a Fool
I have to admit that as I went to bed last night I was starting to dream the Homasho might just beat Kotoshogiku and surge on to take the yusho. Luckily, Kotoshogiku pulled me back to my senses and back to my stated goals of focusing on individual rikishi performance.
Over the coming days, I will still be interested in Homasho. I would like to see him kachikoshi at the least (and I think he will). But, right now, it is time to turn to Kotoshogiku (and, when I have had time to think a bit more, Kisenosato).
Back to Disciplined Dreaming
Will one of them yusho? Will one of them be promoted to Ozeki. I am forcing myself not to care. What I want to focus on instead is whether they are performing at a level where promotion would be a good thing.
I mentioned yesterday that I am now viewing sumo in terms of whether a rikishi is in the crux or acting as the crux. Perhaps a simpler way to put this is defensive sumo versus offensive sumo.
In any tournament, a rikishi must both defend his current rank and seek to gain glory (and possibly promotion) by besting rikishi who display sumo of better quality. In the past, I have thought of these two things as somewhat mutually exclusive. A rikishi is either defending his current rank, or seeking to gain glory (and possibly promotion) by besting rikishi who display sumo of better quality.
I am realizing now, that a rikishi must do both. Consider Harumafuji in this current basho. In his role AS the crux for the M1s, he failed to defend his current rank. He lost to both of them, and Takekaze as well. Now imagine for a moment that he pulls it together and goes on to best Hakuho. Imagine also that the impossible happens and Harumafuji yushos with a 12-3 record. Should he be promoted to Yokozuna?
I would say no. The closer to the top a rikishi approaches, bold wins whilst in the crux come to matter for less than acting as a successful crux (consistently defeating rikishi of lesser sumo).
Viewing Sumo Through The Crux: A Case Study of Kotoshogiku
Last basho, Kotoshogiku did much better in the crux than AS the crux. His offensive sumo was much stronger than his defensive sumo. While he beat Hakuho, he also lost to Okinoumi and Wakanosato. His losses to Toyonoshima and Harumafuji count for less because Toyonoshima is nominally in Kotoshogiku’s crux and Harumafuji is well within Kotoshogiku’s crux.
Two losses to lesser rikishi is certainly not damning. But, we need to go back another basho as well. In that basho, Kotoshogiku lost to most of his crux (Hakuho, Harumafuji, Kaio (he’s retired so we’ll give him the status he should have had at his rank), and Kakuryu) However, Kotoshogiku also lost to Tochinoshin who was well below his crux.
So, now its time to make a list.
This basho, I need to see Kotoshogiku defeat Okinoumi, Wakanosato, and Tochinoshin.
I want to see Kotoshogiku defeat Kakuryu and Toyonoshima in addition to seeing him beat at least 2 of the rikishi in his upper crux.
The full list:
2 Upper Crux Rikishi
If that happens, unenthusiastic as I am, I will have to grudge him that he deserves to be promoted.
So far Kotoshogiku has managed to defeat Wakanosato, which leaves:
2 Upper Crux Rikishi
And Toyonoshima is on the schedule for today and Valentine will be shooting the shit on that, but if you can’t wait for Valentine’s nuggets of wisdom, check out Creswell’s potshots at NHK in Day 5 and then send NHK a letter of recommendation on Creswell’s behalf.