A defining factor of Southern culture: college sports rivalries. We watched a bit of the Oklahoma/Nebraska game last night and heard that Wake Forest won the ACC championship and UNC beat #1 ranked Ohio State and Kentucky in basketball. My team is UNC and it's fun to have the American sports back on the agenda. I never did get into cricket really.
We missed doing this in Tokyo, so in Shanghai we had to check out the Yinqixing Indoor Skiing Park. It cost about $US18 per person for 2 hours and took about 45 minutes to get to from downtown Shanghai. It was surely worth it, not because of the quality of the skiing, but for the experience.
Sumo wrestling is a truly Japanese affair dating back some 1500 years. According to our handy sumo pamphlet that we received at the first day of the Tokyo Grand Sumo Tournament, it started as a religious activity dedicated to the gods with prayers for a bountiful harvest. The Sumo practiced today is heavily influenced by ancient tradition and ceremony. In fact, it sometimes seems like a ceremony where wrestling suddenly breaks out.
Most impressive for me was the sheer size of the wrestlers. I swear one of their legs weighs more than me. Yet, they move surprisingly quickly. There are no weight limits, so wrestlers of very different sizes may face off making for a battle of speed over brawn. Some of the biggest are actually white guys from
Each match, particularly in the more competitive classes, is a dramatic event with the wrestlers facing off, kicking their feet high in the air, stomping down and then stepping away, as if the moment was just not right (the shikiri). They go to their corners, drink water, wipe sweat and slap themselves before then next face off.
Once both wrestlers are ready, they come together (the tachi-ai) in what sometimes looks like a slapping contest, each defending himself by pushing away the upper body of the other, who is often trying to reach for his mawashi (the only clothing- a silk loincloth). There are 82 winning tricks and most involve gripping and leveraging the mawashi. The contest is decided when a wrestler (rishiki) falls down in the circular ring (dohyo) or is forced outside it. Most matches are over in a matter of seconds and ends the day for both wrestlers (one day of 15 in a grand tournament).
The tournament is an all day affair, but the action really happens between . At the Ryogoku Kokugikan Arena, spectators can rent FM radios and hear announcers in English for a deposit of 2000 yen. We liked the insight, but you had to deal with overt cheesiness on the behalf of the American announcer who would say things like “Whoa! get out the maple syrup! He made a pancake with that move!” <groan>.
All in all, a great Japanese experience. Anyone visiting
Thai Boxing (Muay thai) in Bangkok Originally uploaded by sachilefever_twinf.
I remembered why I don't like to watch boxing matches: The sweat streaming down the boxers' bodies while they fight, trainers rubbing sweat into their boxer's muscles during every break, sweat flying into the crowd as one boxer gets in a big punch. I don't even mind people hitting each other, just don't show me all the sweat! It's gross!
Lee wanted to be sure to see Thai boxing, so here we are. We just had some yummy street food outside the arena, and now we're sitting in the foreigners section ringside. There are other travellers to meet here as we listen to the drums and crowds cheer during each round. We all seem to be guessing at the rules and scoring, and cringing at the blood spurting from the head of the boxer in the red corner. It's a cool scene to see the crowd so excited and the drink and numbers runners scurrying through the rows. It's really loud. I'll be surveying the crowd more as the rounds go on...avoiding the visions of sweat splashing on the ropes.
At least you didn’t wear blue! – Laughed the Queensland Reds fans we happened to meet at the train station after saying it was our first match ever. We weren’t sure where we were headed, but followed them through the station onto a shuttle bus to Suncorp Stadium to challenge the New South Wales Waratahs in the Super 14 home opener. The same group even cheered the bus driver and gave us inflatable cheer sticks – courtesy of Coke. Not quite rugby hooligans.
The match itself was incredibly hard-hitting and resulted in a few bloody noses. These guys make NFL players look silly with all their pads. There had to be some sucker punches in those piles!
Throughout the match, the unfamiliar kept us busy and guessing. After a player caught the ball and got pummeled by an opponent there was a penalty “Failing to Remain on Feet”. Did we hear that right? Who could have remained on their feet with that hit? Maybe we misheard the call.
The referee stopped play for halftime with 35 seconds left on the clock and I had to stop asking Lee why – he was as clueless as I was. He was confused about why they kept kicking the ball out of bounds- sometimes to the cheers of fans.
The scene was filled with boxes of fries, meat pies, XXXX beer and Bundy (rum) and cokes – 4 or 8 carried per person. I ordered a ginger ale and the server automatically grabbed a liquor cup and then stopped with a puzzled look – “Just a ginger ale? No liquor?” We’ve seen shirts that say, “My drinking team has a rugby problem” I’m sure we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg.
To our surprise, there were no vendors of jerseys, flags or anything you don’t eat or drink. No handmade signs or painted faces in the crowd. One of the corners of the stadium tried for about 10 minutes to start the wave, but it never caught on past a few sections. We know better than to take the comparisons to American sports too far.
It’s just our first…By the third or fourth I’m sure we’ll be arguing the calls with the best of them! This site helped some, for a starting point.
We did hang out for a final gratifying and fun event that featured people hurling themselves into The Edge Lagoon on bikes and skateboards...
Our Auckland hotel was near the Parnell District which we heard was a nice place to meet friends for a martini and for higher priced shopping. Our hotel, though just fine for us, was not on this level – it was near Parnell, not in Parnell. We happened upon a Tennis Centre just three blocks away with banners announcing the Heineken Open tennis tourney. Soon after, we saw it on TV. How cool!
I have watched many many hours of tennis on TV, but not one professional match in person. It was Massu, a Chilean player with a particular loud and fanatical group following him, vs. Hrbaty a Slovakian player that had beaten Massu twice before. The way the French umpire’s accent rolled these names, Hrbaty’s name sounded like “Halibut”.
Of course we had no idea who was playing when we were waiting in line, hoping for more people to leave, so that we could buy evening tickets. “We only have Lufthansa stand now” – which were the cheapest tickets, but we had individual seats over the center of the main court. Looking across the way, we saw many of the more expensive seats were concrete stadium benches.
So, the evening match began with just a few drizzle drops. One point – Massu. One point - Hrbaty. Then the umpire called a delay. Not even one game or set yet. The only time we’ve seen a dark cloud here happens at my first pro tennis match. Luckily it cleared in 30 minutes. The match went on.
We could hear champagne glasses and dinner plates clinking from the court level boxes throughout the match. Elderly gentlemen were texting on their cell phones next to their wives with large colorful hats.
Lee rooted for Massu, along with the overwhelming cheers of the Chilean fan group who yelled at every point “Chi-chi-chi! Le-le-le! We want Chile! Yay!” The ump wasn’t too pleased, but they would become silent the moment each serve began, so the ump couldn’t scold them. He did, however, scold a man walking up the beacher stairs in the other stand. “Sit down please, for the serve.” Again, with a heavy French accent.
In the end Massu, formerly ranked #9 in the world, won 6-2, 6-4. He revealed his assessment in an interview after the game. “What did you think of the first set?” asked the emcee. Massu got a serious look on his face and with broken English explained, “For the first set, I played very very perfect.”