The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, January 6, 1998

Don't cut sports, cut the pontificating

WELL, the economy is flat again, the budget has an alarming shortfall, and tourism is flagging.

So get ready, because there'll be even better excuses in 1998 for further cutting back of services and programs in the school system.

Of course, every public school athletic director, coach and trainer know that the resources upon which they depend have already been bled dry. They work much longer hours than they are paid for, they have to fund-raise to buy essential supplies, and when that fails, they have to dig into their own pockets.

No longer a shocking situation for Department of Education employees who have had to do this their entire careers. They're used to it, tragically.

The very modestly paid, full-time nationally certified trainers we waited so long to have in the prep programs are working well beyond what should be expected of them. It is rumored that they'll be expected to do even more for a salary that's barely reasonable in this state's uncreative economy.

And you can bet that someone in the budget office is going to suggest we can do without so many of them (one for each of the state's public high schools), or we can cut back on their salaries. Or maybe we can ask them to donate their expertise.

And, can we possibly cut back even further on coaches' compensation?

MAYBE working for the DOE can become a religious calling and celibacy required. Vows of poverty mandatory.

I'm so sick of this. I'm so tired of having to hear incredible but true stories of deprivation from teachers and athletic officials.

Politicians spend more time talking about how urgent it is to cut more services than they do about how to generate more revenue to keep services in place.

A state lottery is not a dead horse. It's a much-maligned and beaten thoroughbred that still has the talent to win this race.

It's no secret that 48 states have lotteries or casino gambling (Utah's the only other holdout) and it's no secret that Hawaii residents bet on everything that moves.

Their No. 1 vacation destination is Las Vegas and they are dying for a chance to gamble legally within their own state.

And what about our chief industry, tourism? Instead of annoying visitors with higher and higher hotel taxes, why not titillate them with a chance to gamble?

When I lived in Massachusetts, I saw the birth and growth of a lottery that rejuvenated school budgets in the commonwealth's cities and towns. People won and they lost but their money always stayed home.

Please don't give me any holier-than-thou garbage about protecting our people from gambling addiction. We live in an addictive society. If it's not gambling, it's the internet, or booze, or drugs or sex.

The trick is to turn a vice we cannot eliminate from our lifestyle into revenue.

It's common sense to OK a lottery. We are definitely not more moral than those other 48 states.

MY apologies to Herman Wedemeyer, Russ Francis, Al Harris and Bern Brostek.

Chris Naeole was NOT the first first-round NFL draft pick from Hawaii, as I wrote in one sentence of my year-end column.

I should've remembered that Bern Brostek was picked 23rd overall by the L.A. Rams as recently as 1990, becoming the fourth first-round draft pick from the 50th state.

Wedemeyer was the first in 1974 (Rams), Francis was the second in 1975 (New England), and Harris was the third in 1979 (Chicago).

Naeole did set a financial precedent for a Hawaii-born first-rounder by signing for $8 million.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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