Bet on it: Sumo faces heavy crisis

Japan’s reputation in the world of sports has been body slammed by a gambling scandal that has knocked live sumo wrestling off Japan’s public TV broadcaster NHK.

Dozens of sumo’s top wrestlers and coaches allegedly have wagered as much as $50,000 on professional baseball in Japan. It has generated such viewer disgust that the ancient national sport is facing its worst crisis in a century.

This would be like Pete Rose getting caught betting on American baseball. Well, at least Rose didn’t compete in a diaper.

Kotomitsuki, 34, who holds the sport’s second-highest rank, revealed last month he bet on professional baseball. Otake, a former wrestler, has admitted running up betting debts of more than $50,000.

A Japan Sumo Association survey last month found at least 65 of its members had been involved in illegal gambling. It’s likely they bet on teams that were, uh, heavy favorites.

The betting comes on the heels of the sport’s top wrestler, Asashoryu of Mongolia, resigning after drunken misbehavior, the criminal punishment of a coach for a deadly hazing incident and the expulsion of several stars for marijuana use.

Use of marijuana, which can lead to eating binges, is considered a performance-enhancing drug in sumo.

No one has accused sumo of a cover-up, though trunks would be preferred to cotton G-strings.

■ ‘KOBI’ EYES PBJ MARK — Takeru Kobayashi added to the international woes of Japanese athletes when he was arrested Sunday after jumping onto the Coney Island stage at the conclusion of the Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest in New York City.

Major League Eating prevented the former six-time champion in the event from competing over a contract disagreement. But the slender Kobayashi, who does not speak English fluently, was arrested and jailed Sunday night before being released Monday.

Upon release, he said he was given only a peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk in jail. That is 41 sandwiches short of the world record.

He pleaded not guilty in Brooklyn on Monday to charges of obstruction of governmental administration, resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct. He was wearing a black T-shirt bearing the message “Free Kobi” before being arrested.

■ TENTACLES PICK SPAIN — German soccer fans are dismayed heading into today’s semifinal World Cup match against Spain after an octopus gobbled a mussel from a glass tank marked by a Spanish flag instead of one from the one flying a German flag.

This is the first time in six Cup matches that Paul the German Octopus did not pick Germany.

Perhaps to countering Paul’s prognostication favoring Spain, Nadya “Octomom” Suleman will pick Germany. More weight should be given to Suleman’s pick, as her octuplets account for 32 appendages to eight for an octopus.

COMPILED BY JEFF WOLF
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL

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