It's nice to know that Michael Phelps isn't the only prominent athlete getting the shaft lately for sparking up. As you've probably heard by now, our American aquaman is dealing with a media uproar — as well as a three-month suspension from USA Swimming and the loss of at least one endorsement — thanks to a cell-phone pic of him toking off a bong at a house party in South Carolina. As bad as that sounds, though, it turns out Phelps is getting off easy, at least compared with what's happening to sumos in Japan.
We here at the Phoenix wrote about this stuff once already. We made all sorts of jokes about it — like, "Isn't it funny that while we Americans have an athlete committing a triple homicide about once a week, those silly Japanese are still freaking out about their sumo wrestlers smoking herb? Ha ha, how quaint." That was maybe six months ago, when a Russian-born sumo named Soslan Gagloev (a/k/a Wakanoho) got busted for having a third of a gram of weed. Gagloev never did any time (despite stiff five-year penalties for possession under Japan's strangely backward criminal code), but the incident led to a lifetime suspension from sumo and a humiliating danpatsu-shiki ritual haircutting ceremony, which symbolized his exit from the sumo world forever.
Well, it wasn't a joke after all, because we've got still more sumo wrestlers getting arrested for possession. And it seems this latest guy is like the fourth one to be caught getting high recently. Turns out that Japan is pretty much one big stoner movie — Harold and Kumar Get Fat and Wrestle the Shinto Spirit.
Unlike Gagloev, the new bustee is actually Japanese. He goes by the stage name of Wakakirin, and his real name is Shinichi Suzukawa. God knows how he got caught — he claims he was turned on to the tree after seeing it in hip-hop clubs, which is a disturbing image in itself — but the Japanese press jumped all over his tightly wedgied and ample behind for even trying the stuff. "We are appalled by his utter folly," wrote the newspaper Asahi Shimbun in an editorial.
The Japanese are in turmoil over this latest scandal, just one in a string of recent blows to the sumo reputation. Among other things, the top champ, a Mongolian who goes by the name Asashoryu, shamed the sport by pumping his fist in triumph after a match. You're not supposed to show any emotion at all in the ring, which is considered sacred ground, just like the daily-shaved testicles of the wrestlers are considered sacred and untouchable. (Okay, I made up that last part.) Anyway, the antics of Asashoryu have the country up in arms, and Wakakirin's bust won't help the cause. Give him four points and a very big bag of Cheetos.
All right, so maybe it's a little early to start giving out nominations for the Justin Miller Award, handed to the college football player who most stupidly imperils his NFL draft chances by getting arrested shortly before the draft.
But you nonetheless have to like the effort by Ohio State tackle Alex Boone, who could have just written himself a ticket to the seventh round for a crazy bust in California this past week.