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The Home Team signs off as TV hub for UH sports

By Dave Reardon

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 10:13 a.m. HST, May 20, 2011



Is there a statute of limitations on unauthorized moonlighting?

Reason I ask is if a reward exists for reporting such a heinous crime, I'd like to file a report, officer.

On or about May 16, 1984, an otherwise-employed man in his early 30s was observed in the vicinity of the Moiliili Quarry, working as director of KIKU's coverage of the Western Athletic Conference baseball tournament.

I even sweated a confession out of the guy.

"At the time, I was on my 13th day of two weeks' notice at KGMB," said Jay Curlee, aka "Esteban Foonman," according to the KIKU credits. "I hired Bryan Furer, who was the top makeup guy in the state. I had him make me up with a fake nose and warts and a beard."

Curlee/Foonman, now a Big Island filmmaker, related his tale of intrigue in bittersweet fashion Sunday at the scene of the crime, now known as Les Murakami Stadium. While it was senior day for the Rainbows, it was also alumni day and aloha ball for KIKU/KHNL/KFVE, the over-the-air entity that televised University of Hawaii sports for more than a quarter-century.

Old-timers and current workers took turns on cameras and at other stations. They shared lei and hugs and memories. "We pass into history today," Jim Leahey said, sounding like Sean Connery in "The Hunt For Red October." And not a bit overdramatic given the situation.

"I didn't know this was happening," said Curlee, who directed the seventh inning. "I got a call on Friday and was told Esteban Foonman needed to come back."

A UH baseball telecast requires a crew of 14. You see and hear two of them, play-by-play man Leahey and color analyst Pal Eldredge. The other 12 are like the umpires — generally, if they do their job well, you don't notice them.

While the Rainbows put the finishing touches on one of their wildest wins ever, the TV crew wrapped things up like true professionals, capturing all the pertinent angles of something few if anyone in the stadium had seen before — a three-run groundball error to win a game.

It was good they got such a unique, crazy ending, because it gave them a chance to let the instincts override the emotions. They did their jobs.

If you watch UH sports, you are at least somewhat familiar with names like Evan Fujiuchi, Scott Ohta, Keith Aotaki, Paul Eblen and Thomas Shimabukuro. Camera operators, engineers, replay technicians, directors, producers. Some of them worked that 1984 tournament with Esteban Foonman.

The Leahey-Eldredge partnership goes back to 1980, when Leahey enlisted his UH grad school classmate; interestingly, because Eldredge had played at Brigham Young, which fielded one of the WAC's top baseball teams in the tournament KGMB aired.

While other polished local diamond TV voices abound, like Howard Dashefsky, Markus Owens and Jack Wiers, I hope they don't mess with this pairing for now. It's Leahey's best sport, and Eldredge is the state's Mr. Baseball.

"They've been an amplifier," athletic director Jim Donovan said, lauding KFVE's role in UH sports. "It was just business, basically a bid situation."

Like so many workers in recent years, the KFVE crew faces an uncertain future. There's some speculation that the new broadcaster, Oceanic Cable, will use the KFVE workers and infrastructure for its UH productions. Employees were told they'd get some word this week, but as of yesterday, nothing. "I don't know what the hold-up is," one said. "We're surprised by it, and anxious."

"Forget about us," a KFVE vet told me. "We're not the story."

True, for that day. Of course, a miracle rally by the home team trumps the last telecast by The Home Team.

But Oceanic has yet to name its roster and starting lineup. Until it does, who the tellers of the stories will be — in front of the camera and behind it — remains a mystery. And mysteries make for good stories.

"Those guys are so good they don't need a director," Curlee said. "I hope they get to continue to do what they do."

———

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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