The non-fiction bestseller Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner — a book about using economic methodology to analyze a whole host of social behavior — is currently huge in America, and I finally got a chance to read it over the last week. I was intrigued by the chapter looking at sumo wrestling being fixed. Essentially, the authors make the case that wrestlers who have a 7-7 record going into the last match win a statistically-improbable number of bouts against wrestlers who, regardless of the outcome, will finish the tournament with a winning record.
I’m not a sumo expert, but I’ve never heard anything about this widespread sumo fixing in Japan. Has anyone out there heard about this from Japanese sources? Is this a commonly known fact outside of the Freakonomics readership? The book claims that two wrestlers were hoping to out the system at a press conference but died mysteriously and simultaneously at the same hospital beforehand. (The police did not investigate for any foul play.)
These patterns of collusion between sumo stables seem to resemble other kinds of collusion in the Japanese media, political, and economic world, but I would wager that fixing “non-scripted” events in Japan can only continue as long as those involved have an informational advantage over the consumers/citizens. Would this practice continue even if sumo fans started receiving open and full information about the topic?