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Monday, September 01, 2014         

FURTHER REVIEW


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Punahou's amazing, long run ends, and that makes some people happy

By Dave Reardon

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When I told a friend I was covering Punahou baseball yesterday, he got very excited about the prospect of the Buffanblu losing, and losing by a lot.

"I hope they get smashed," he said, his eyes lighting up.

This person is what I'd call a gentleman. He's respectful and even-keeled. He's not someone who goes around ranting and raving and hoping bad things happen to high school athletes, or anyone.

He has no affiliation to Mid-Pacific Institute, where its excellent Owls team fulfilled his wish with an 8-0 rout. That result ended any chance the Buffanblu had of beating MPI three times and then taking states for the eighth year in a row.

We're not talking impossible dream here. In recent years, Punahou has often meandered along until its back was against the wall, then rallied its way to the top. We've seen it happen so many times that no one would've been surprised if the Buffanblu did it again, starting with a win yesterday.

But it's not to be, and the ABP (Anyone But Punahou) crowd is happy. Star-Advertiser copy desk ace and columnist Cynthia Oi, one of the best word people I know, reminded me there is one for this.

Schadenfreude. It means to take pleasure in the misery of others. An ugly word for an ugly characteristic.

In sports it is the norm. Many people express hate for the teams they don't like with more passion than they put into loving their favorites. I remember being in the Bay Area a few years ago, and the 49ers and Raiders were both suffering poor seasons. But fans of both teams were happy; because the hated rival across the bridge was losing.

Back to Hawaii high school sports: We have a collectively low tolerance level for prep dynasties. Saint Louis football and ‘Iolani basketball also come to mind. Their long runs of championships eventually drew more disdain than grudging respect.

Part of it is human nature. Another part of it is because we relate so much to our high schools here, even folks who have gone on to further education. You know how it goes, when you ask another local person where they went to school, they'll always respond with their high school, not college. That's not how it is on the mainland.

For some folks, those old rivalries that were nurtured into fabricated hate never die. Doesn't matter that Saint Louis football put Hawaii on the map for college recruiters. Doesn't matter that Derrick Low was a really nice guy and incredible to watch play basketball.

And maybe it doesn't matter that Punahou played seven years of not just stellar, but incredibly clutch baseball.

The president's alma mater gets a shorter leash on this kind of thing. Not saying it's right, it just is. Punahou is one of the best schools in the nation, in many arenas. That means when one of its hugely successful teams loses, it makes a lot of people happy.

Ask Yankee fans, they know how it is.

Either way, yesterday's game was going to be an intriguing story. The end of a dynasty, or the start of another sprint to the finish by the team that wouldn't die.

"I really don't know," said Buffanblu center fielder Michael Suiter, when asked what had become of Punahou's seemingly bottomless bag of tricks. "We've always been able to pull through. Now we just have to take it for what it is."

Yesterday's outcome is actually a source for a double celebration. Mid-Pac didn't squeak by, it won decisively, and Dunn Muramaru, Marcus Doi, Travis Garcia-Perreira and the rest of the Owls made Hawaii baseball history. It also gives reason for reflection on Punahou's amazing accomplishments of the past seven years.

Here's something that was probably lost on the players, who were born in the 1990s. Maybe the older coaches got it. Between innings, the speakers put out some fine Van Halen riffs. But for the last inning of the dying dynasty, Steely Dan's "Deacon Blues."

"They got a name for the winners in the world. I want a name when I lose."

Coincidence, or rubbing it in?

The longer you're on top, the harder the fall.

———

Reach Star-Advertiser sports columnist Dave Reardon at dreardon@staradvertiser.com, his "Quick Reads" blog at staradvertiser.com and twitter.com/davereardon.






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