Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Saturday, September 26, 1998

This penalty flag
can’t be disregarded

IF I were Cal Lee, I would think twice before taking another high school football team to Las Vegas.

He's 0-2 coaching teams there.

Oh, those teams have never lost on the field.

On the contrary, his nationally ranked Crusaders routed Green Valley High, 55-6, three weeks ago.

Two summers ago, an all-star prep team from Hawaii -- coached by Lee -- led a Las Vegas contingent, 14-0, before a brawl broke out four plays into the second quarter.

There was so much bad blood between the two teams that the Nevada coaching staff asked Lee to call off the game (he obliged and the game was canceled). So much for that goodwill game, which it was billed as, by the way.

However, that was an all-star game and everything blew over.

Truth Contest Waikele This time, though, it won't be as easy to dismiss what happened.

St. Louis might have won a football game, but it lost badly in terms of public image. The school suffered a black eye with the news that its players trashed their Las Vegas hotel rooms with "Animal House" behavior.

THERE were unconfirmed reports of even worse excesses that may yet come to light.

What's as disturbing is that Lee and his coaching staff, and anyone else involved, thought the incident could be covered up.

In time, everything leaks. Players talk. Parents complain. People blab. And reporters can reach sources, including management at the Las Vegas hotel, to confirm reports. Star-Bulletin sportswriter Pat Bigold did.

Brand-X's version of the incident paled in comparison with Bigold's story.

It's a sad story, really. Even sorrier because it involves a Catholic institution with a proud history of athletics and education in Hawaii.

But now, St. Louis is more sinner than saint.

What happened in Las Vegas shouldn't be dismissed as a boys-will-be-boys lark.

It wasn't. Far from it. It was a blatant disregard for property, with undisciplined behavior by players, some of whom were also abusive, according to hotel personnel.

Don't blame Las Vegas.

Twice in the late 1960s, Farrington High took its football team to Las Vegas. The Governors were winners on and off the field, beating Western High and Bishop Gorman, and winning over the people there with their behavior.

"I guess it's a sign of the times today," former Governors coach Al Espinda Jr. said. "Our kids were from a lesser economic area and they appreciated going on a trip."

The guilty St. Louis players showed no appreciation. It's sad.

EVEN sadder is that the school, however indignant and embarrassed, has dispensed a rather innocuous punishment by putting those involved -- about three-fourths of the 88-player traveling squad -- on probation.

Probation. It's a word that means don't do it again.

My late mother would have laughed if I had asked her to put me on probation for a misdeed. I'd get whacked.

In 1967, 25 of 44 players on the Punahou football team were suspended -- not merely placed on probation -- for drinking beer after a game. The undermanned Buffanblu team finished the Interscholastic League of Honolulu season by losing four of their final five games.

At St. Louis, though, it seems winning football games has become the No. 1 priority.

St. Louis has strived -- many believe at all cost -- to build a nationally ranked football program. And it has gained national recognition.

Unfortunately, it has now reaped notoriety of a far different kind.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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