Inspiring Little Leaguers, and Clay’s the best
Friday - August 29, 2008
I don’t know if there’s anything quite as inspiring in sports as watching an undersized Waipio Little League team battle back in three games, the last comeback from down 5-1 in the sixth (and final) inning. The tension and drama in that Saturday game against Louisiana is the reason we love sports.
Sunday’s World Championship game was almost anti-climactic by comparison, as Mexico proved no match for a Waipio team that scored in every inning en route to a 12-3 win.
And there were the stories: Pikai Winchester’s little brother home in Hawaii battling lymphoma, and Iolana Akau’s return from a beaning, smashing a home run in his first at bat. Everyone contributed and the Hawaii players seemed so gracious in victory.
I was trying to explain to my sons Max, 5 and Finn, 3 what the game meant, when Max interrupted and said, “Dad, I know what it means. Never give up!” Just so, Max.
I listened to a couple of talking heads debating whether Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt was the greatest athlete in Beijing. The answer is none of the above.
The best athlete in Beijing was decathlon champion Bryan Clay. And the second-best athlete was the guy who got the silver medal, Belarus’s Andrei Krauchanka.
Bolt, while a fabulous performer, just runs. And only sprints at that. He is tested only for speed. Phelps may be the best swimmer ever, and his eight gold medal swims are mind-boggling. But while he does all four strokes, they are all employed in sprints with the possible exception of the 400 I.M., which would be the track equivalent of the 800 meter at the margins of middle distance. Again, a test of speed.
The decathlon tests for speed, strength and endurance. While the 100m and 110m high hurdles require speed, the high jump and long jump require lower-body explosiveness, the discus, shot put and javelin demand strength, the 1500 meters measure endurance, and the pole vault combines a need for speed, strength and technique. The events require so many skill sets that are unrelated that it’s easy to conclude that while Phelps and Bolt delivered amazing and memorable Olympic performances, the best all-around athlete is Hawaii’s own Bryan Clay.
I am asked constantly how the UH football team will fare this season, and the answer will depend largely on how well the offense comes together and how quickly they manage it. It would be hard to imagine them not requiring three or four games to find their identity. I believe the defense will be the best since those of the mid-‘80s, barring a catastrophic level of injuries. Special teams will be improved as the pool of athletes is better. But until the group learns to deal with the adversity that each new season presents, the outcome of games is in doubt. And the adversity comes this weekend with the No. 5 Florida Gators, who are talented and deep.
Finally, football season is here.
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