The fighting spirit prize

The fighting spirit prize

It’s a good thing that multiple rikishi can receive the same prize during a single basho.

I know you feel the same way.

You have learned many irrelevant, embarrassing and otherwise excellent things about me during this siege of pandemic blogs. (For some reason you are still here. I am both baffled and grateful.) But we have not yet discussed the fact that I am an avid, nearly rabid, and rather well-informed fan of sumo wrestling.

I am 100% serious.

I am a fan of sumo wrestling to the degree that, given the chance, I could yap at you gleefully for several hours about my favorite rikishi (wrestlers), which warrior I think is overdue for the rank of Ozeki, and why yorikiri and oshidashi are crucial but not generally the most impressive moves you’ll see in the dohyō.

Are you still reading?

My husband and I watch every Makuuchi (top division) sumo honbasho (tournament), and one of our favorite moments is always the announcement of the special award winners. It’s fun to predict who might win the Technique Prize or the Outstanding Performance Prize.

But what really gets us grooving is the Fighting Spirit award.

Multiple rikishi can receive the award in a single basho, but you can bet we’ve always got our eyes on one special warrior who has truly earned the title.

You realize I am, of course, speaking also of cats.

If there’s any room resembling a dohyō at Tabby’s Place, it’s surely Suite FIV. The cats are enormous; the cats are warriors; the cats are righteous rikishi with the battle scars and immune-compromised status to prove their history of warfare. (Unlike osumōsan, the FIV+ boys do, in fact, pull each other’s hair. But I digress.)

Every day is a basho. Every resident of that rocking room is a contender for the Fighting Spirit Award.

And in this month’s tournament, we have not one, but two, winners.

Toby came to Tabby’s Place circa the Meiji era, and early observations did not suggest we had a warrior on our hands. With his sleepy eyes and sweetly slothful nature (Shaggy from Scooby Doo multiplied by The Dude from The Big Lebowski), he was more stoner than samurai.

So it seemed. But the most righteous rikishi are always modest about their capabilities.

In post-bout interviews, even the winningest sumo stars will almost universally say, “I’m not thinking about the tournament. I just want to do my brand of sumo.” (Seriously. If, over the course of a basho, you had to eat a chicken nugget every time someone uttered the words “my brand of sumo,” you would be the size of a rikishi yourself by the end. And let’s not even talk about what would happen if you swapped those chicken nuggets for shots of sake.)

So Toby never told us of his considerable powers.

He let his powers speak for themselves.

On his second time around at Tabby’s Place, happily but tragically punctuated by adoption to a loving man who he outlived, Toby was titanic in his throwdowns. Whereas previously, his fellow Brooklynite Lester had been the one with the warring reputation, now it was Toby’s turn to toss fellas around.

In sumo, wrestlers are generally either “pusher thrusters” (shoving their opponents forward) or “mawashi men” (grappling with their foe’s special garment, which is not a diaper, but a thick 30-foot belt, and now you have another fun fact to share at the Thanksgiving table). Toby, however, is an everything man, as in, he will throw everything he has at you.

And he has everything, including a new forever home. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Meantime, a far quieter combatant also had his eyes on the prize. Weird, wonderful Wilson, the Bacon lookalike with the intermittently bad attitude but invincible heart of gold, may have made less of a splash on the interview circuit. But where Toby pranced and preened, Wilson won hearts and minds and battles royale.

Is it any wonder there were two Fighting Spirit Prizes awarded this basho?

Is it any wonder these beautiful, bountiful boys were adopted together?

Isn’t life glorious in its strangeness?

Fight on, all you kittens and rikishi, and remember: this world is fat with promise, and there are prizes for all kinds of warriors. Just keep doing your brand of sumo. I’m cheering you on…and I’m not alone.

PS: Between the writing of this post and today, the shimpan held a mono-ii (that is, the judges reviewed the initial ruling of the gyōji) and determined that only Toby will be going to this particular forever home. So be it. Wilson will not be stripped of his prize nevertheless.

1 thought on “The fighting spirit prize

  1. Okay. Usually love your posts. I do love and honor the idea that you and your husband share a love of sumo wrestling, but my major appreciation of this blog is the charming interwoven story of Toby’s adoption and the wonderful cat pictures. I will always love and honor cat photos!

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