A Gift To Hawaii From West Oahu
Wednesday - September 07, 2005
World Series hero Michael Memea talks with
MidWeek‘s Yu Shing Ting
All right. All right.
Call me a girlie man, if you like; I admit it. Two weekends ago I choked up, shed a tear, felt warm and fuzzy - repeatedly - over Ewa Beach winning the Little League World Series.
Hell, I’m still feeling warm and fuzzy!
How could you not - just by listening to their names: Layson “Kaeo” Aliviado, Harrison Kam, Ty Tirpak, Zachary Ranit, Ethan Javier, Vonn Fe’ao, Quentin Guevara, Sheyne Baniaga, Michael Memea, Myron “Kini” Enos, Alaka’I Aglipay and three coaches named Aliviado, Kitashima, and Tirpak.
Musical, almost, and redolent of the Islands’ rich demographic: Filipino and Polynesian, Portuguese, Caucasian, Puerto Rican, Korean and Japanese. Even a team from a place called Curacao couldn’t top Ewa Beach in exotic names.
But why the tears? I didn’t know any of these kids - or their parents. I don’t live in Ewa Beach. And I’ve reached a place in my life where I don’t even enjoy watching baseball very much.
Yet somehow those kids, their coaches, and their parents touched us all - profoundly. I think it has a great deal to do with Hawaii’s perception of itself.
Gov. John A. Burns gave a speech once in which he argued that Hawaii’s people suffer from “a subtle inferiority of the spirit.” Burns knew of what he spoke. He grew up in Hawaii during the height of the plantation era, when a class-ridden Island society placed Caucasians at the top, valued all things in the continental United States above things Hawaiian, and saw Hawaiians, Japanese, Filipinos - indeed, all who were not white - as suitable for cutting cane, dancing for the tourists and doing lawn work.
The legacy of that era, despite the efforts of Burns and a generation of post-war builders of every ethnic background, remains a certain sense that we’re not up to the national standard.
And lest we forget our inferiority, one new arrival to Hawaii or another will point to our students’ substandard national SAT scores or the slowness of our state or county governments to complete some task, and imply that such things never, ever happen in any continental state.
And that variety of criticism, repeated endlessly in letters’ columns, strums the chord of inferiority that’s been played since the plantation lunas called Hawaiians “lazy” or Asian workers “sneaky.”
To overcome such feelings, we do silly things. For example, we pay a former NFL coach a million dollars to give us a winning Division I football team. Never mind that he plays a mind-andokole-numbing, four-and-one-half-hour-long brand of football. Never mind that his road games sometimes end in Godzillion to 3 numbers.
Then we create a bowl game tailored so that, well ... any halfway decent University of Hawaii football team can play in a bowl game.
But those Ewa Beach kids redeemed us. There is no way that they can be called anything but “da bes’, brah.” The absolute best - in the nation - nay, the world.
They did everything right. Their pitchers never strayed far from the strike zone. They executed beautifully, whether bunting for a hit, running the bases, or playing the bad bounce.
And they never quit: that kid Fe’ao, giving up the tying runs in the top of the sixth, then coming back in the seventh and fearsomely willing the Curacao kids out in order, the last two on strike-outs; or the Memea boy, hitting poorly in the last few games of the tournament, stepping up to the plate in the bottom of the seventh, looking vulnerable, and - on a 3-2 pitch - seizing the Little League World Series championship of the world. Of the world. Let me say it again: Of the world!.
Hawaii and its people do many things well. We can boast of world-class astronomers, extraordinary classroom teachers, beloved entertainers, a powerful United States senator, a multi-ethnic populace that strives to live aloha - and much, much more.
Now we have some poster children - some poster young men - from Ewa Beach to remind us of our superiority.
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