Keeping Score

By Cindy Luis

Monday, March 17, 1997

Reality hits home,
even in Little League

SOME people wear their hearts on their sleeves. These ballplayers are wearing all of our hopes.

Saturday's opening-day ceremonies for Kailua American Little League saw hundreds of youngsters with patches sewn on both their sleeves. One was the traditional Little League patch, the other a sad and scary reminder of the times: Drug Free Hawaii/Laulima Program.

If only the innocence shown on all those faces in the infield could remain throughout our children's lifetimes. If only the worst thing that could happen on the way home after a practice was a skinned knee.

But it is far better to face the reality than to turn a blind eye to the growing drug problem with our youth. It is far better to have someone like retired police major Frank Sua speak openly to the players while on the same side of the fence than to have the talk from the other side of prison bars.

The players made two promises Saturday. The familiar lines of the Little League Pledge echoed across Keolu Field, a reminder that "win or lose, I will always do my best."

Sua then challenged the youngsters to live up to the promise they wore on their other sleeve. To live up to the promise that should be permanently sewn into all of our hearts.

AT least the ESPNET SportsZone still likes Hawaii basketball. The internet link last week polled surfers about which of five bubble teams deserved to get into the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan received the most votes but the Rainbows earned a respectable 14 percent.

It will be interesting to see the results of tomorrow's poll involving Hawaii where UH is one of 16 schools represented in the Battle of the Mascots. The Rainbow Warrior is up against the Hawk of St. Joseph's in a first-round contest.

This one begs the questions: What does the Rainbow Warrior look like and what rendition will be up on Web? Surely not the Kamehameha wannabe that used to wander the sidelines at football games looking like the poster boy for Wrinkles R Us.

Perhaps the university should consider putting Alan Hackbarth and Warren Epps in costume. The dancing pair ignited the Special Events Arena crowd during last Wednesday's NIT game against Oregon, creating an atmosphere that rivaled -- dare we say this? -- a volleyball match.

Certainly those two would win, Macarena-hands down, against the likes of Bucky the Wisconsin Badger and Western Kentucky's Big Red, a Tickle-Me-Elmo clone. They definitely would have a better shot than the Stanford Tree, which has been banned from the competition until 2001.

The Tree was put on five years probation after two students were caught trying to e-stuff the ballot box. This according to the aptly-named Stanford systems networking director, Chip Haven.

THOUGH snubbed by the NIT to host today's second-round game, UH athletic director Hugh Yoshida made sure committee member Bob Byrnes left Hawaii with more than a bad sunburn.

Byrnes and wife Pat soaked in the atmosphere of Friday's volleyball match between Hawaii and Lewis, and were impressed by another night of great fan support. Yoshida is hoping that it will pay off the next time the Rainbows are being considered as postseason hosts.

It is ironic that Hawaii's fans were used against themselves when it came to today's hosting duties. Byrnes said that UNLV's Thomas & Mack Center had the potential to be more profitable, seating 18,200 to 10,225 in the Special Events Arena.

Also, UNLV's second-largest crowd in the post-Tarkanian era was the 17,000-plus that showed up when the Rainbows met the Runnin' Rebels during the WAC regular season.

Too bad the NIT didn't take the sure thing instead of putting another dollar in the slot machine, trying to hit a big pay day.

Cindy Luis is a Star-Bulletin sportswriter.
Her column appears weekly.

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