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Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Friday, May 7, 2004


Final 4 only draws
‘The crazies’


SO these are the die-hards. The traditionalists. The crazies. The true believers. These are the real volleyball people.

These are the ones willing to miss the very last episode of "Friends."

It is often said that Hawaii is that rare, special place that loves men's college volleyball. Maybe.

Maybe Hawaii just loves its powerhouse UH team.

Because the Stan Sheriff Center was not full last night, the first night of the 2004 NCAA men's national collegiate volleyball championship. Far from it.

There was elbow room galore, if you wanted it.

It looked like a screening of "Gigli" in there.

There were empty seats everywhere (the attendance was 2,675). And an excuse behind every one. There was this year's TV event of the century (Do you think they brought the monkey back for the finale? Or Ross' first kid, the one who mysteriously disappeared?). There was bad timing, and traffic, and national champion Rice playing baseball right next door this weekend. There are always reasons.

Even when local boy Rhonee Rojas, playing for Penn State, made it home for this final four, last night's Star-Bulletin said he expected "10-15 family members in the crowd (last night) and several more watching on TV."

Watching on TV?

And then the home team stayed home. That was the biggest one of all. That was what let the air out of this balloon.

So with host Hawaii out, the two motives left for showing up would be a) a love and appreciation for men's collegiate volleyball, or b) out of spite.

And even with despised, detested, loathed BYU in the field, spite, apparently, judging by the box office, was out. (There were scattered boos, true. But one guy came to yell out, "This is Hawaii and we hate BYU!" One.)

A bad break there, too. This BYU team is just too darn lovable. Not even I can conjure up any ill will against these guys.

(Not when they have Brazilian Fernando Pessoa, the character of this tournament. Not when he says things like, his wife, a gymnast at BYU, can understand how it feels to lose a volleyball match because "sometimes she crashes in her vault.")

Will UH fall short of the attendance numbers it guaranteed to get this event? That would be a good guess. But only a guess, because nobody seems to know quite what those numbers were, or what will happen if this tournament doesn't reach them.

Hey, they filled out the form a few years ago. Who remembers?

"We would cross that bridge when we get there," Hawaii associate athletic director Tom Sadler said.

So who did come? Well, the die-hards. The purists. The crazies. The real volleyball people.

Long Beach State brought a band. It brought a giant inflatable mascot. It brought Tanner from "The Bad News Bears." It brought a guy who brought a "Sweep! Sweep! Sweep!" broom. And it didn't look like a brand new one, either. What did he do, check it in his luggage?

It was great sport. It was good fun. These love-of-volleyball people are on to something.

Both of them.



See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com

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