I'm not kidding. Japan's national sport, the thing that to us uncultured observers looks like a pushing contest between two fat guys in diapers, is getting some unlikely participants in America.
Traditionally, sumo wrestlers are very big men, sometimes weighing as much as 600 pounds. They are also agile and graceful athletes. The rules are simple: two wrestlers, wearing only a loincloth called a "mawashi," try to push each other out of the ring, or make any part of their opponent's body other than the feet touch the ground.
In the kind of sumo that's starting to catch on here, you don't have to be fat to participate. You don't even have to be a man. You just have to be someone who wants to try a new way to get into shape. You burn a lot of calories in sumo, so it's bound to be popular with the fitness-obsessed set. There are already sumo classes at UCLA and at some martial arts studios. And if it's starting to get popular here in Southern California, you can bet your bottom latte that it will soon be going on in your neighborhood as well.
I predict that it's going to be the "in" thing among the "in" crowd. Once they get rid of the beautiful rituals and the mutual respect, it will be the perfect sport for spoiled celebrities. Before beginning, both wrestlers stamp their feet, clap their hands and then stare at each other. Then the actual match lasts only about one minute. It's a lot like a Britney Spears marriage.
After Madonna and Demi Moore go to their Kabbalah class, and before they get their Botox injections, they'll stop off to do a little sumo wrestling. Paris Hilton will be modeling designer loincloths, and Richard Gere will be talking about how pushing another man out of the ring awakened his spiritual side.
But I don't think it's only going to appeal to celebrities. Sumo just might be the perfect exercise for America today. After all, we keep buying diet books, we keep joining gyms, and the fat keeps piling onto America's waist, hips, and butt. Today, something like 61 percent of American adults weigh more than they should. What could be more perfect for this country than an activity in which you can exercise and be fat?
Obviously, there are many people who either ignore medical science or the nagging of their loved ones. And there are others who, for various reasons, just can't lose weight. Should they have to continue to be the object of public scorn? Must they be filled with guilt and shame forever? Not once sumo spreads its chunky thighs across the land.
When they're in training, Japan's sumo wrestlers consume a great deal of food, containing an enormous number of calories. And they don't have to do it in secret after everybody else has gone to bed. You won't either after you put on your first loincloth. Sumo wrestlers aren't ashamed of being fat. They celebrate it. Nobody looks down at them because of the extra baggage they carry. On the contrary, they're heroes. Maybe soon in this country, people will start looking at overweight folks differently, too. They'll no longer shake their heads and think, "What happened to him? He really put on some weight." Instead, they'll think, "Good for him. Looks like he's into sumo wrestling."
And I don't think we're too far away from hearing the following exchange:
"Are you going to just sit on the couch, eat junk, and drink beer all day?"
"I have to. I'm in training."
Note To Those Who Read My Column Last Week:
I didn't win the lottery. I don't get it, either. I thought I did everything right. It's possible the lottery people messed up. I've written to them, asking them to make sure they published the correct numbers. I haven't heard back yet.
Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.
By Lloyd Garver