Ever Wonder About Cheating? (Or, Sumo Wrestlers Cheat Too!)

When they were younger, Rockstar and Friends once developed a huge fascination with Blue Tack - that gummy stuff used to put kiddie drawings and other work on the walls. It became a huge commodity. Like, instead of money or drugs, little 5 year olds would trade little gobs of the Magic Stuff That Could Make Things Go Up On Walls. Little gobs hard earned by stalking the movements of paintings being displayed, and examining school walls.

Back when Rockstar was a Y1 (yes, some 5 years ago), the 4-5 year olds also had a No Sharing Stationery Supplies Between Tables rule, I guess because with so many little kids new to the primary school routine and all the stationery being supplied by the school in the first year, they needed to keep better track of all the supplies (For eg, Hamster Ninja, if kept unchecked could go through her weight in markers and pens).

During this time, a little boy in Rockstar's class was asked repeatedly by friends at the next table to hand over some erasers from his own table (because they'd lost all theirs).

"But... (Teacher) said no sharing between the tables."<looks around for teacher so he can ask><friend who has been refused the eraser looks a little disappointed, goes back to own table> 

"Wait, wait, you know what? Take it" <calls friend back and hands eraser over> "Bring it back when you're done..." <keeps track of eraser being returned to own table.>

Rockstar's then-classmate had understood the principle behind the rule, the "spirit of the law," so to speak - that sharing between tables in itself wasn't "wrong." It was that stationery needed to be accounted for per table, and that was why there was this rule to begin with. So he broke the rule but accounted for the stationery. (Yeah of course you got that, you're not five :D)

After seeing that, it highlighted a developmental "skill" I hoped my own little kids would pick up, the sooner the better. Kind of the little kiddie equivalent of an exercise in judgement when kids are teens: 8 Life Skills 18 Year-olds Should Have 😛

Anyway, to Freakonomics' Cheating Sumos story.

Now, I don't know that much about Japanese culture, but I have certainly witnessed the strict honour and etiquette they are so proud of. I remember someone long ago telling me they'd left an expensive camera on a subway in Tokyo and when the train eventually got back hours later..... yup. The camera was still there 😀 (We've done similar with Rockstar's laptop in Hong Kong too, I love HK Lost & Founds in the city in general)

So... why do Sumo wrestlers cheat, and how did checking the games data tell Levitt & Dubner this (without anyone ever admitting to it)?

Here's a little more about Sumo:

"...Life is hardest for the lower ranked wrestlers, who are expected to get up earliest and cook, clean, serve food and generally wait on the higher ranked wrestlers..."

"...It is a fact of sumo life that the younger, inexperienced wrestlers endure systematic hazing and physical punishment in order to toughen them up. This is part and parcel of sumo culture and something that young wrestlers know to expect, but it can sometimes go too far – resulting in injury and very rare cases even in death..."

The final night in a Sumo tournament is called "the pleasure of a thousand autumns," in which the victor "receives all kinds of elaborate prizes for his success. And a fat wad of cash, of course."

(You'd think this is why Sumo wrestlers cheat right...? Like why Lance Armstrong famously cheated, for fame and glory......

Lance Armstrong pic from slate.com

But you'd be wrong 🙂 )

Lemme carry on painting the current picture for the moment though - even for the referees of the Sumo matches, Sumo completely dictates their lives. They enter the profession young, around 16 years old, and remain referees until they retire. "The traditional clothing they wear in the ring is strictly graded according to rank, and as they progress up the ranks they earn honorific names by which they become known...." 

 (pics off wikipedia)

"...the gyoji also carries a sword, or tanto, of about six to twelve inches in length. The significance (of the sword) is the seriousness of the decisions he has to make – and is prepared to commit seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) if he makes a bad decision" 

I. Know.

So again, I wonder how they feel about:

These Dudes. (-pic from Amazon.com)

And there's more - "sumo wrestlers aren’t... allowed to choose their own clothes.  ...They are expected to wear (the samurai hairstyles of the Edo Period) and traditional dress at all times when out in public..."

pic from insidejapantours.com

"...sumo wrestlers are even expected to control their demeanour and personality in public. ...wrestlers must be self-effacing and softly spoken, and during tournaments they should refrain from showing joy at winning or disappointment at losing..."

So Sumo wrestlers cannot do this (pic from fifa.com)

Or this (pic from freshwallpapers.net)

Maybe not even this (pic from nydailynews.com)

So now again:

Why do Sumo wrestlers sometimes cheat?

To help the wrestler who needs the win more.

Levitt and Dubner illustrated that when wrestlers went up against each other, the one with a 7-7 (ie 7 wins 7 losses) record, who needed the current match win to make 8-7 (8 wins being the benchmark for a huge bump in paygrade and respect), won far more often than pure chance would've allowed.

This is why I loved playing with probabilities in my former life: The assumption being 8-6 and a 7-7 Sumos are fairly evenly matched, the 7-7 Sumo would have a roughly 50-50 chance of winning. Or maybe slightly lower odds, since they do have 1 less win than the 8-6 sumo. So say about 45%, 47% chance of winning the crucial match.


Guess how often the 7-7 Sumo actually wins against an 8-6 Sumo? Not 50% of the time, not 47%, but a whopping 75% of the time.

AND, what d'you think happens when next the two wrestlers meet again?

There's payback: Former 7-7 guy (now an 8-7) almost always lets his new friend (also an 8-7 since he lost his previous match with former 7-7) win.

Now, wasn't that sweet? 🙂

Have a good rest of the week, dears...


Related posts:

About Aileen

I blog about living and raising my son in Hong Kong - where toddlers have entrance interviews, parents keep test score spreadsheets, private school debentures can trade for more than half a million USD. Raising Rockstar's the most important thing I'll ever do. We show our true colors by the choices we make in bringing up our children. My blog is a message to my toddler son, about what the world and his parents are like today - for when he becomes a teenager and knows everything.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.