Those Damn Mongolians Are at It Again

When Mark Duggan and I wrote our statistical analysis of match rigging in sumo wrestling (which also was featured in Freakonomics), I spent a lot of time digging through translations of Japanese media reports of suspected past match rigging incidents. Almost every prior accusation of match rigging had a common theme: it was always a foreign sumo wrestler at the center of the alleged incident. Mongolians were the favorite target by far. Somehow, though, when we analyzed the data, the Japanese-born seemed to be just as corrupt as the foreigners. Funny how that works.

When Freakonomics was published in Japan, we expected to be inundated with Japanese media requests to discuss our sumo allegations. Although the book sold well in Japan (due in large part to the tireless efforts of our fantastic Japanese translator), as far as I can remember, not one Japanese media outlet has contacted us to discuss the sumo wrestling results.

Still, when I heard that there were new allegations of match rigging in sumo, I thought maybe our book might have been the catalyst. You can read the reports (here and here) for yourself.

Turns out it is just those damn Mongolians again.

(Hat tip to Charles Mastellone.)


egretman

Psych 101 meets Freakonomics? It takes more than facts to influence deeply held societal beliefs.

The Japanese do not teardown their cultural icons and regugitate them every 10 years like we do.

Jun Okumura

The Japanese language Wikipedia lists four cases as major allegations of match rigging. Of these cases, only the last one lists a foreign sumo wrestler among the accused, and I remember it as a wholesale indictment of a rigging system that had a Japanese national ex-yokozuna at the center of the allegations. If the gaijin featured prominently in the media reports at the time (I assume they are not taken from the English versions of the Japanese media, but translations of all the articles from the original Japanese versions), it must have been because he was a grand champion at the time. After all, Mark McGuire and steroids is a big story, a journeyman infielder and steroids is not. Asashoryu is an even bigger fish to fry, since he has been the only grand chanmpion for years.

So, I ask you to back up your assertion with sound analysis.

I am not saying this to deny that race, nationality and the like have not been, or do not continue to be, a factor in sumo. (Case in point: How many black sumo wrestlers have you seen in Japan?) But I do think that you, as an academic economist, should hold yourself to the same standards that you hold other to.

Read more...

egretman

If ever Freakonomics is made into a movie, a main focus will have to be the sumo wrestlers.

The most honorable profession in the most honorable society in the world is not above cooking the books. Intrigue in the inscrutable orient. It will be a hit.

Perfect for John Goodman's first non-comedic part. His girth is about right.

MM01

Report: Today, a news show in the morning discussed the allegation, showing your findings: a 7-7 wrestler wins 80% of the time against 8-6 and 9-4, while 70% when they meet again next time.

A sports analyst said that it is a very sensitive issue, judging from the fact (you pointed out again) two people suspiciously died due to the same illness, at the same hospital, at almost the same time.

Anyway, we have two big events to study.
1) publication of the Japanese edition in April 2006, and
2) the allegation this month.
Maybe I should go to the library, find the Sumo World or something, check out 7-7 wrestlers' track record before and after these two events.

MM01

Sorry, typo: 70% --> 40%.

Gaijin51

I don't think the weekly magazine that made this allegation is very reliable. We're not talking about Newsweek here.

What I have wondered about with Sumo is that they don't apparantly test for doping like they do in other sports. Some Japanese I've asked about this don't think they are doping and are not concerned. My own view of human nature is that a number greater than 0 probably are, especially if there's no testing. Too much money at stake. Also, those that are cheating are probably likely to be at or near the pinnicle of the sport, because cheaters would be more likely to win than non-cheaters.

Jun Okumura

Am I correct in assuming that you will not respond in any way to my query?

Steven D. Levitt

Jun Okumura

This link is down, but I believe if you are able to get to these stories, you will find that the allegations against foriegners are far out of proportion to the number of foreigners in the sport:

http://www.accesscom.com/~abe/WeeklyPost.html

tomojiro

I agree here with Jun Okumura. "The weekly Post" (Shukan Post) is conducting a kind of anti sumo campaign for almost 20years.

They use everything, alleged confession of an ex sumo wrestler that fixed match are common to testimony of ex-foreign sumo wrestler about the alleged racial discrimination to abuse against foreigner sumo wrestler, abuse of famous and popular yokozuna's, sex scandal, money scandal whatever you name it.

That's why in Japan most of the people take what is written in "Shukan Post" with big grain of salt.

I am not saying that their is discrimination against foreign sumo wrestler or denying the possibility of match rigging.

But basing arguments on "Weekly Post"...

It is the same as you would use "The national Enquirer" as your source. Not very reliable.

Jun Okumura

tomojiro: I believe that this particular post failed to meet the high standards it set in the book.

DRIFTER

I am from Japan.This kind of allegations were directed to all the great Yokozunas who were so dominant and mediocre Ozekis who were on the edge to be demoted to lower ranks.
It does not matter if they are Japanese or not.
Almost all
And foreigners got promoted to be Yokozuna and Ozeki far out of proportion to the number of foreigners in the sports.
I was disappointed that you made this kind of malice post to foreign country without knowing very little.
I heard you were one of the great economists.
I found this post was wrong because I am familiar
with this matter. We need to be more skeptical to his writing.

Garth

I read with great interest the Sumo chapter in your book. It occurred to me, though, that there could be a few other explanations and comments about the data:

1) the data analysis is delightfully and strongly supportive of the hypothesis that some matches are "thrown".

2) the question is though, why are such matches "thrown". What is the motivation? The thesis in the book is that it is corruption.

3) What about altruism? Maybe it is harder to beat someone who you see as having more to lose. And so by fighting less hard you are "helping the other guy". This could be seen as a form of sportsmanship. Occasionally I "throw a match" of checkers with my 6 year-old nephew. It's not because of "corruption" but because I would rather have him experience winning a game. Some might disagree with this as a child-care practice, and I have mixed feelings about it myself, but I think most of us would hold back our skills some when playing a game with a young child, for example.

4) Supposing there is an "altruistic" motive. Another question is whether the motive is manifest consciously or deliberately, or whether it is "unconscious". For those who would doubt the existence of "unconscious" motives to human behaviour, I would refer them to some delightful social psychology research demonstrating such effects in well-designed prospective experiments. So, some players might deliberately "take pity" on the opponent in the "thrown match", but some others might genuinely insist that they are not "throwing the match" at all, despite performing more poorly than expected. The fact that such "throwing of matches" occurs less frequently if the issue is in the media is consistent with this, as an unconscious motive is less likely to be a factor if the issue is raised overtly to consciousness through a direct information source, such as the media -- or a psychiatrist.

Read more...

egretman

Psych 101 meets Freakonomics? It takes more than facts to influence deeply held societal beliefs.

The Japanese do not teardown their cultural icons and regugitate them every 10 years like we do.

Jun Okumura

The Japanese language Wikipedia lists four cases as major allegations of match rigging. Of these cases, only the last one lists a foreign sumo wrestler among the accused, and I remember it as a wholesale indictment of a rigging system that had a Japanese national ex-yokozuna at the center of the allegations. If the gaijin featured prominently in the media reports at the time (I assume they are not taken from the English versions of the Japanese media, but translations of all the articles from the original Japanese versions), it must have been because he was a grand champion at the time. After all, Mark McGuire and steroids is a big story, a journeyman infielder and steroids is not. Asashoryu is an even bigger fish to fry, since he has been the only grand chanmpion for years.

So, I ask you to back up your assertion with sound analysis.

I am not saying this to deny that race, nationality and the like have not been, or do not continue to be, a factor in sumo. (Case in point: How many black sumo wrestlers have you seen in Japan?) But I do think that you, as an academic economist, should hold yourself to the same standards that you hold other to.

Read more...

egretman

If ever Freakonomics is made into a movie, a main focus will have to be the sumo wrestlers.

The most honorable profession in the most honorable society in the world is not above cooking the books. Intrigue in the inscrutable orient. It will be a hit.

Perfect for John Goodman's first non-comedic part. His girth is about right.

MM01

Report: Today, a news show in the morning discussed the allegation, showing your findings: a 7-7 wrestler wins 80% of the time against 8-6 and 9-4, while 70% when they meet again next time.

A sports analyst said that it is a very sensitive issue, judging from the fact (you pointed out again) two people suspiciously died due to the same illness, at the same hospital, at almost the same time.

Anyway, we have two big events to study.
1) publication of the Japanese edition in April 2006, and
2) the allegation this month.
Maybe I should go to the library, find the Sumo World or something, check out 7-7 wrestlers' track record before and after these two events.

MM01

Sorry, typo: 70% --> 40%.

Gaijin51

I don't think the weekly magazine that made this allegation is very reliable. We're not talking about Newsweek here.

What I have wondered about with Sumo is that they don't apparantly test for doping like they do in other sports. Some Japanese I've asked about this don't think they are doping and are not concerned. My own view of human nature is that a number greater than 0 probably are, especially if there's no testing. Too much money at stake. Also, those that are cheating are probably likely to be at or near the pinnicle of the sport, because cheaters would be more likely to win than non-cheaters.

Jun Okumura

Am I correct in assuming that you will not respond in any way to my query?

Steven D. Levitt

Jun Okumura

This link is down, but I believe if you are able to get to these stories, you will find that the allegations against foriegners are far out of proportion to the number of foreigners in the sport:

http://www.accesscom.com/~abe/WeeklyPost.html