2005’s Top Nine (Edgy) Stories

Steve Murray
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Wednesday - January 04, 2006
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It’s time once again to revisit the nine biggest sports stories of the past year. Why not 10? Everyone does 10. MidWeek is edgy. That’s why we have nine.

1) Youth Baseball: If it seemed the beaches were not very crowded during the summer, it was because nearly every boy 8-18 was on the Mainland playing baseball. Never in the history of Hawaii sports were so many athletes in contention for a national championship. With victories in the Cal Ripken World Series and the grandson of them all, the Little League World Series, the 50th state became the center of the adolescent baseball universe. Close your eyes and you can still see Michael Memea’s historic home run, can’t you.

2) A World Champion: Undersized and likeable, it’s hard not to root for Kaneohe product Bryan Clay. After winning a silver medal at the Athens Olympics in track and field’s hardest competition, the decathlon, Clay one-upped himself by taking home gold at the 2005 World Championships. The only thing keeping him off the top of these lists the last two years is the relative obscurity of his sport. But if he keeps this up, we may finally have someone capable of dethroning Duke Kahanamoku as Hawaii’s greatest all-time athlete.

3) Mouth Of The South: When the UH football team went looking for a new defensive coordinator, few would have considered a former NFL head coach who had not spoken with Warrior boss and former underling June Jones in a decade. Jerry Glanville came to Hawaii with a reputation for nasty defenses and a master’s degree in story-telling. Though the Poi Pounder defense has yet to develop, the Gritz Blitz attitude was evident in the big hits and overall temperament of his players. He also joins with Mouse Davis to make the most quotable coaching tandem in all football.

4) Spartan Horse: Final Four favorite Michigan State entered the Stan Sheriff Center looking for a tune-up before the Maui Invitational. They ended up getting tuned to a 22-point loss. Whether UH just had the Spartans’ number or Tom Izzo’s boys overlooked their opponents, the visitors left the court looking shell-shocked while Riley Wallace enjoyed the grin of the victors. Yes, the dehydration problems devastated the Spartans, but UH was already in control of the game and the medical problems just added to the situation.

5) Going Pro: If it hadn’t been expected for many months, the announcement that Michelle Wie was becoming a professional would have been a bigger story. That being said, the press conference did mix in some surprises to go along with the expected. True to form the suits from Nike and Sony said all the right things. Michelle dazzled those in attendance with her trademark combination of schoolgirl charm and adult savvy while Mom and Dad beamed with pride. Wie’s donation of $500,000 to hurricane relief was a pleasant surprise.

6) A Champ At Last: When Brian Viloria entered the professional ranks it seemed just a matter of time before he raised a title belt. Cancelled bouts and management issues delayed the inevitable and finally, in September, with a knock out of Eric Ortiz for the World Boxing Council light flyweight title, the dream came true. He, along with Clay, confirm that nice guys can finish first.

7) Aloha Cav: It didn’t take long for Mike Cavanaugh to become a welcomed fixture on the UH football team. Embracing local and Polynesian ways, Coach Cav helped open a pipeline for talented linemen from Hawaii, Samoa and the West Coast to come to the university. Combining good humor with a sailor’s vocabulary, he helped turn boys into men and then into NFL prospects. Cav was as much a coach as he was a tough symbol of the team. His decision to take the same job at Oregon State was greeted with some anger. Fans felt Cav was one of their own.

8) End Of The Lineup: When you’re born in Hawaii and go on to international surfing fame, you tend to get noticed. And when you decide to hang it up, it’s big. Sonny Garcia has gone from hard-charging Waianae teen to one of the most recognized faces in the sport. Along the way he won a world championship, six Vans Triple Crowns of Surfing - more than anyone - and is only the second surfer to total more than $1 million in prize money.

9) Bidding A Fond Adu: When the D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy came to town last year it was the first time professional soccer was played in Hawaii since 1977. Bringing in the two big-named teams was important to fans, but the real reason they came out was to watch teen sensation Freddy Adu. There are more accomplished athletes in the league, but no bigger star. The large crowds and enthusiastic support mean it shouldn’t be long before pro soccer once again hits the Islands.

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