With a couple of hundred red-clad Kahuku High partisans waving balloons and banners — and a yellow school bus disgorging more by the minute — there was the feel — and sound — of a pep rally afoot.
Not a roadside out among the tight-knit North Shore communities the Red Raiders faithful hail from, but smack dab in the middle of downtown Honolulu alongside the Mililani Mall, of all places.
All of which drew bemused looks from passing onlookers trying to grasp the spectacle that pierced an otherwise tranquil Sunday afternoon.
You really didn’t expect the Red Raiders to retreat quietly from this football season, did you?
Not after all they’d done to get to 10-0 in this season of promise and portent.
And, they won’t. Two days after being declared out of the Oahu Interscholastic Association championships and sidelined for the Hawaii High School Athletic Association state tournament because of a clerical error that led to an ineligible player, it was announced that attorneys for the parents of three Kahuku football players, Evan and Sterling Moe and Jamal Napeahi, will file suit this morning against the Department of Education, OIA and HHSAA seeking to overturn the Red Raiders’ exclusion.
While the appearance of Kahuku parents, family and fans was to provide a well-orchestrated backdrop to attorneys Eric Seitz and Della Belatti handing out copies of the complaint and answering news media questions, the press conference was soon enveloped by the rally that had broken out.
"You guys leave anyone up on the North Shore?" someone asked the Kahuku faithful before a hand-holding, swaying rendition of the Red Raiders’ alma mater broke out.
If there were any folks back home, there couldn’t have been many. The faithful came in football jerseys, "Let the Kids Play!" T-shirts and straight-from-church Sunday shirt-and-tie best.
Their message wasn’t confined to their neighborhoods, either. Crowd shots on ESPN from Saturday’s University of Hawaii-Boise State game showed signs imploring the powers that be here to just let the boys play.
Yesterday, Seitz colorfully compared the Red Raiders’ banishment from states over an acknowledged clerical error to "the death penalty."
Hyperbole aside, though, even some of the Red Raiders’ fiercest rivals will say that, from all we’ve heard of the particulars of the case so far, the decision to void the Kahuku season over this smacked of unnecessary overkill.
To be sure, OIA officials believed they were acting in the best fiduciary interests and upholding policy as they saw it. But sometimes there needs to be a common-sense test applied, too. One that permits a little flexibility in the best interests of the students whom this is supposed to be all about.
This would seem to be one of those instances.
A banner in the crowd yesterday proclaimed, "You can’t say no to the power of the North Shore."
Under the circumstances, and for the right reasons, you’d hope the court will concur.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.