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Kalani Simpson

Sidelines

By Kalani Simpson

Sunday, July 15, 2001


Cal Lee’s dominance
won him few fans

WE all saw St. Louis School defensive coordinator Delbert Tengan say it on TV, and his words in this newspaper stood out in black and white: "It's just like BYU without LaVell Edwards or Florida State without Bobby Bowden."

Exactly.

And in more ways than one.

Both built powerhouse football teams that won year after year after year. Both are grand leaders. Icons. Architects.

But does anyone outside of Provo like LaVell Edwards?

Do you, University of Hawaii fans? Any warm feelings there?

And personally, I have been tired of ol' Bobby, his Nike contract, his No. 1 rankings, his four-deep lineup of high school all-Americans, his "Free Shoes University" scandals and his "I'm everybody's grandpa" routine since 1993.

But Bobby gets the last laugh. He just keeps winning. Florida State just keeps rolling.

Just like Tengan's boss, Cal Lee.

Lee knows that everyone loves a winner -- until you win too much. And he passed that point of no return long ago.

Lee has taken St. Louis from Underdog to Good to Great to ENOUGH ALREADY!

That's the feeling out there. Enough already. St. Louis has simply won too much too long for too many people. They're tired of St. Louis. They're tired of Cal Lee.

Do you doubt it? After 14 in a row, when someone else actually took the title, it wasn't just Kahuku that celebrated.

When the Raiders beat St. Louis last season for the championship, an entire state went nuts.

People from Waianae to Kaneohe to Waialua screamed at the TV, and jumped up and down, and pumped a fist in triumph. Somebody was finally sticking it to St. Louis, and in the game that mattered most. Yes! Yes!

To Cal Lee, it was just a game. But to many, so many, it was a watershed moment. It was redemption. It was revenge. It was sweet. Oh so sweet.

Over the years, St. Louis had turned into Goliath. As we all know, nobody roots for Goliath. Everybody wants to see Goliath get beaned in the eye with a sharp rock.

There was resentment with every blowout and each trophy. With every time a prospect in your district ended up on Lee's roster. When a stud player transferred from California or Washington schools to come "home" to play for the Saints. With each off-field incident that made the news.

Even officially, steps were taken and rules adopted, in some eyes, to curb St. Louis' success. No redshirts. Public school transfers sit a year. A running clock during runaways. Good rules all, and about time, too. But as someone reminded me recently, has any similar legislation been enacted to address Punahou's domination in track and field?

He's quite a man, that Cal Lee, that they change the game to slow him down.

And now Lee is in his last season. On paper it will be a triumphant victory tour. On paper, that is. Tributes will abound. But tears will be few.

He didn't even have the decency to fade away and retire in a whirlwind of warm and distant memories like Edwards did. Lee is still at the height of his powers, still ripe for resentment. Still beating peoples' brains in -- one win by Kahuku didn't change that.

Goliath still lives.

But after this season, that's when the fun begins. Then we'll see if the St. Louis machine can run without Cal Lee. The sharks are out. They smell blood. The world opens up, the season after this one, for the first time since the very early '80s.

Maybe then they'll look back and remember Lee, and what he accomplished, fondly.

But not yet. It's still too soon. The bruises still hurt and the losses still sting.

Lee is a great coach, and he is widely respected. Inside the ohana, he is revered.

But like all giants, he is not loved.



Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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