I’ve had a philosophical basho this time around. I am trying to invent a language in my head to keep track of how a rikishi is doing while keeping in mind his strength of schedule. If my philosophy has balls (and I feel it does), this post represents the moment when those balls drop.
So let me continue in a deeper voice. A couple days ago, I had a revelation. My goal is to repeat this revelation so often that regardless of whether or not is brilliant or idiotic, it will catch on: So here I go: In Sumo, you are either in the crux or you ARE the crux. Now let me make it even better!
The Crux and The Pocket
As I have watched the rikishi through this new lens, my thoughts keep hitting a speed bump. I can say “Such and such a rikishi is in the crux” meaning that they are facing opponents who represent a higher level of Sumo, but what do I say when they are not in the crux? Similarly, I can say that this rikishi and that rikishi is “in Homasho’s crux”, but what do I say about the rikishi who are not.
It struck me while I was playing pool the other day. After a string of difficult shots, that left me with lots of stripes on the table while my friend had sunk all his solids, everything just lined up. I sunk six stripes in a row, and then on my next go, I bragged that I had all the rest of the stripes in the pocket. Amazingly, it worked out for me.
As I was relishing this pool victory, it came to me. The pocket! The crux and the pocket. Anyone who is not in someone else’s crux is in the pocket.
I can’t resist a few comments on… you guessed it.
Now that the M1 crux is winding down. Okinoumi and Homasho will be entering the pocket. When a rikishi is in the crux, we are looking for spectacular wins against all odds and losses don’t get us down very much. When a rikishi is in the pocket, we are looking for steady wins that are obviously due to skill.
But, I promised that I would let up on Okinoumi and Homasho and move on to Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato. While Okinoumi and Homasho are coming out of the crux and moving into the pocket, the opposite is true for Kotoshogiku and Kisenosato. They are moving out of the pocket and into the crux.
So let me take a look back at Kotoshogiku’s pocket performance and then do the same for Kisenosato.
Shonichi: Not a bad start.
Kotoshogiku vs. Wakanosato
Two men man up here in the center of the dohyo. Neither guy could move the other until Giku threw one of the last of our friends from Aomori to the ground. Kotoshogiku needs about 12 wins this basho to have a shot at the Ozeki rank.
Day 2: I guess we can say that Kotoshogiku displayed quick wits and good listening skills to win this bout. Still nothing in this bout helps me conclude that Kotoshogiku deserves promotion.
S1E Kotoshogiku vs. M2W Yoshikaze, 8-2 in the Geek’s favor: Yoshi attacked without the Geek putting his right fist down. Both rikishi paused expecting a redo, but neither the gyoji nor any judge stopped the match. The Geek was first to notice the fat lady ain’t sung yet, and carried on with a dead-fish force out win. The Geek advances to 2-0 while Java Chip Frappuccino falls to 0-2. Fans weren’t happy and mata should have been called as it was 1) clear the Geek wasn’t even close to putting his fist down, and 2) both rikishi thought it was a false start. A poor (lack of) showing by the gyoji and judges in this one.
Day 3: Aran should be at the top of Kotoshogiku’s pocket, maybe even at the bottom of his crux. But this basho, Aran’s performance has led me to invent a new term in my philosophy “Pocket of Shame”. With a pocket of shame like Aran’s, we still can’t get a very good idea about Kotoshogiku’s pocket performance
Kotoshogiku vs. Aran
Aran came in to today after having his ass handed to him by both Hakuho on day 1 and Baruto on day 2. He had a nice tachi-ai and prevented Kotoshogiku from initially getting his desired grip. They traded belt grips and as Aran wound up for a belt throw attempt Kotoshogiku sensed it coming and adjusted his balance to counter as his moved in for his gaburi-yori special. Aran is still learning, and he has lots of strength. He’ll get it right at some stage.
Day 4: Takekaze is a good bullshit barometer when he’s in your pocket. When you lose to him, you know you are having a shitty basho. Kotoshogiku managed to sail right through Takekaze. Verdict: He isn’t having a shitty basho. But Takekaze can tell us nothing about whether he is having a good basho.
Kotoshogiku vs. Takekaze. kotenage win for koto. Koto just kept trying for this, locking up take’s arm in a way that stopped him trying for the mawashi. 4-0 win, but take not not looking so good on 0-4.
Day 5: Kotoshogiku managed to beat the great Homasho! He deserves to skip Ozeki and go straight to Yokozuna. Nah. I like Homasho, but I am not out of my mind and I can admit when my favorite rikishi screws up. Homasho presented a pathetic tachiai, and so again, the best we can say about Kotoshogiku is that he isn’t having a shitty basho.
Kotoshogiku v Homasho – Homey set up way far back from the shikiri, and Geek right on the line. Homey shifted slightly to the right at the tachiai, which (because he was so far back) was spotted by the Geeku. All it took was a slight course correction from the Geek to get a side impact on Homey, sending him to the ground. Oshitaoshi brings the Geek to 5-0, Cigar Shop at a respectable 3-2 (those 3 are all ozeki.)
Day 6: Here is the first day that I think we can say that the Geek is showing himself to be in good form. This was a nice clean win, exactly the sort that I wish the Ozeki were getting (speaking of pockets of shame, those Ozeki have deep ones this basho)
S1E Kotoshogiku (5-0) vs. KE Toyonoshima (1-4): these two go back to high school sumo days in fact, but since entering sumo their record is 19-9, in the Geek’s favor. At the tachiai, both came in low looking for belt grips. Musta vasolined ‘em belts cos no one got that, but once Geek was comfortable with the arm hold he had, he advanced on Toyo and led him out of the ring. The Geek advances to 6-0 and clearly on pace for that ozeki pay check in November. Toyo falls to 1-5.
Day 7: Now we have two days running in Kotoshogiku’s favor. Plus Okinoumi wasn’t just in Kotoshogiku’s pocket, he was in Kotoshogiku’s honor pocket. (Honor pockets and pockets of shame are much like sorority girls, put too many rikishi in the pocket at the same time and it switches from the former to the latter).
Kotoshogiku v Okinoumi – that was a pretty good tachiai from Don Juan, but that was good, textbook stuff from the Geek, gabburi-yori style. Even a little bit of confidence and bravado from the usually taciturn Geek, looking a bit more ozeki-like, than normal. Undefeated Geek, and Don Juan is at 3-4, but a good 3-4.
Conclusions so far: I hope Kotoshogiku falls short of promotion this basho. There are too many rikishi performing badly this basho to get a good take on Kotoshogiku’s performance. Unfortunately, with so many rikishi performing badly in this basho, Kotoshogiku’s chances of promotion are actually higher than they should be. Its a conundrum for the ages.
Conclusions: My laziness has now overcome my motivation. Lets see if Kisenosato pulls through today with his record intact, and then maybe tomorrow I’ll have the energy to analyze his pocket performance.
For now, Creswell can entertain you with comments about my bulgur in his Day 7 report… Ok… so, I meant to write another word, but my computer translated it into “bulgur” and I think I will leave it that way.