November 3, 2005

Blond sumo wrestlers

Back in 1999, I wrote a spec screenplay for the HBO comedy Arliss: The Art of the Sports Superagent.

was perhaps the least popular sit-com ever to survive a half dozen years. The lead actor, Robert Wuhl, mugged too much and the pro athletes who did cameos were almost all wooden. But it had a small but intense fan base among prominent men because it was the most politically incorrect comedy ever and the intelligence level of the writing was about two standard deviations above that of the much more popular Sex in the City. Each time HBO was about to cancel it (which was just about after every season), guys like Tom Brokaw would complain and the producers would get another order for 13 shows.

The main plot of my spec script was about a black quarterback who plans to start a black-only country club. But the subplot was about an aging client, a white basketball center from Tulane named Devereaux Blanc, who is such a gourmet that he has eaten his way out of the NBA and has now lost his job playing for Milan. To find him another Italian league team, Arliss had handed him off to his sharp secretary Rita (played by Sandra Oh of "Sideways) and his concussion-addled assistant Kirby, a washed-up NFL quarterback:


(trying to imitate Arliss)

Dev, the Ragin' Cajun, the Man Who Took Tu-lane to the Final Four-Lane.

Dev stares at him blankly.


Bad news, big guy. Every Italian team told us that during your year in Milan you put on thirty-five kilograms.


Do you know how much that is?


Well, neither do I, but apparently it's too goddam much.


So, I'll play in Greece. … If only goat cheese had a subtler flavor …

RITA [Sandra Oh]


We called the Greek teams, too.


Spain? … Turkey???


Luckily, there is an expansion team that's not worried about you putting on pounds: the Glasgow Neap-Eaters. … What are neaps?


Mashed turnips.


Well, there you go: the Scotch like food, too.

Arliss then thinks of peddling Dev to the WWF as the Gargantuan Gourmet, but Rita won't make the call because pro wrestling is too chicken-fried steakish for a man of Dev's exquisite taste. Fortunately, there's a happy ending:

Rita and Dev burst in, smiling.


Knock knock! Dev has a contract!

Kirby struggles in man-handling a huge stand-up cardboard cut-out, of which we can only see its blank backside.


Rita found me a wrestling job with a fascinating cuisine to explore.


Here's what Dev'll look like once he gets in shape.

While Rita speaks, Kirby turns the stand-up cut-out around. It's a LIFE-SIZED, but headless, 2-d version of 600 POUND Samoan sumo wrestler Konishiki in traditional garb.
Kirby places the cut-out in front of Dev, so Dev's head appears to be attached to Konishiki's BLOATED BODY.


Mr. Saito, Dev's new stable manager, says he'd assumed Japanese fans wouldn't support sumo wrestlers from, uh …


Bigger races. But the fans love Konishiki, who's a 600 pound Samoan.


So, Dev will be the first white.


The Ragin' Caucasian.


A pioneer of diversity.


Jackie Robinson in a g-string.

Well, the Arliss producers hated my spec script, but another show's producers liked it enough to have me pitch them ideas and paid (nicely) for a script. (It's a rule of thumb that the show you write your spec script for will hate it, but you can still use it to get work on other shows.)

I was reminded of all this ancient history by this new Washington Post story:

Blonds Enter the Sumo Ring: Fleshy Foreigners Crack Japan's Sacred Sport
By Anthony Faiola Washington Post Foreign Service

TOKYO -- Flesh struck flesh with a thunderous smack, and rolls of fat and muscle rippled down the alabaster-skinned frame of the blond sumo Baruto [see picture], a rising star in Japan's national sport. Clad only in a traditional loincloth, the sweaty Estonian towered over his stouter Japanese opponents during a morning practice, knocking them to the dirt floor one after the other, like so many oversized bowling pins.

"I came to Japan to be a sumo champion," said Baruto, 20, the professional name of Kaido Hoovelson. After only 19 months in Japan, the 6-foot-6, 360-pound Baruto -- which means Baltic in Japanese -- is soaring in the rankings. "I still feel like a foreigner, and I don't understand many of the customs of sumo. But I don't care. I plan on making it to the top anyway."

Baruto's ruddy complexion and hungry, outsider's spirit make up the new face of sumo wrestling in Japan, where foreigners are now dominating what once was among the purest and most sacred cultural bastions. The change has become a metaphor, many here say, for a reluctantly globalizing Japan. Foreigners are making unprecedented inroads in this nation long considered to be highly xenophobic, breaking into the top levels of fields as diverse as sports, finance and the arts.

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

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