Asashoryu's dominance is
due to weak opposition –
Yea or Nay
Facilitated by Carolyn Todd
|I believe the above figures clearly establish the dominance of
Asashoryu since winning his first yusho. However, if we look at the
figures a little more closely, they reveal another side to the equation
– namely, the lack of competition that the yokozuna has had.
I was surprised to find that Asashoryu never competed against another yokozuna during these 24 basho since he won his first yusho. Now, of course, he has been the sole yokozuna since Musashimaru’s retirement in November 2003 (Kyushu Basho). So, for seven of those 24 basho Asashoryu could have met Musashimaru but did not because of injury to the big Hawaiian. In the first two of those 24 basho Asashoryu could have been expected to meet another yokozuna, Takanohana, but injury also kept him from the dohyo. What this has meant is that during Asashoryu’s period of dominance, he has not had to fight against an equal or a superior to win the yusho. None of this is his fault, of course, and who is to say that Asashoryu would not have beaten the two yokozuna in the twilight of their careers. As I said before, I am not saying that Asashoryu is not good, only that he has not been tested and his opposition is weak.
LH: I’m beginning to think that Howard and I may not be as far apart as I thought…but we’ll see. It’s important to establish at the outset that we’re not only asking if Asashoryu’s opposition is weak – questionable in itself – but we’re further asking for evidence showing that is why
Directly after the Aki Basho ended, a frustrated Kokonoe oyakata
exclaimed that yokozuna Asashoryu won because everyone around him was
"so damn weak" (a translation). In doing so, he publicized a sentiment
that many have expressed for well over a year. Some have asserted that
this statement could have been made after many of the yokozuna's 18
yusho, citing that he has effectively been a lone yokozuna from the
beginning, among other things. This Debate has been growing plump on
the vine for a while, and now the oyakata has given us a sign to pluck
Frankly, identifying those who would carry the banner for either side has been challenging, so for this forum it will come down to two of SFM's own number. Staff writer Howard Gilbert believes that Asashoryu's bulging bag of yusho is in fact due to a weakened cast of aite, and Editor Lon Howard will do his best to say otherwise. Howard, as many of you know, resides in Auckland, New Zealand, while Lon lives in the U.S. near Seattle, WA. More on them can be found in SFM's Staff Profiles.
Regardless of where one stands, this is not a cut and dried issue, but since it's on so many lips, we'll explore it as best we can. So Howard, to get us going, please tell us why you feel that Asashoryu has been so fortuitous?
|HG: Thank you, Carolyn.
Let me begin by saying that I am not questioning Asashoryu’s ability in
any way. He is the yokozuna, and fully deserves that title. He
has proven his ability to win day after day, and to win yusho as well.
Quite simply, he is the best at this time. However, what I am arguing
is that Asashoryu’s current dominance of ozumo is based not only on his
extraordinary ability, but also on the fact that those around him are
currently far from impressive.
Yes, Asashoryu would still win some yusho (as a yokozuna is expected to do), but we have been in a situation for the past two or three years where the likelihood of another rikishi winning the yusho seems almost non-existent. I believe that this is because of other rikishi’s failings rather than simply explaining it as Asashoryu’s brilliance alone.
Asashoryu has won 18 yusho prior to the 2006 Kyushu Basho, and having won three this year. However, the utter dominance of Asashoryu was seen in 2004 and 2005, when he won 11 of the 12 yusho, only missing out on September 2004 when he was a disappointing 9-6 after doing little preparation for the basho. Indeed, his 18 yusho have been achieved in just 24 basho since he won his first yusho as an Ozeki at the 2002 Kyushu Basho. So, in four years Asashoryu has won three quarters of all the basho.