Saturday, March 31, 2012

Smalltown news is major league coverage in Maui

KIHEI, Hawaii – One thing that amazes me about Maui – other than its beauty, weather and spirit – is the pride the island takes in its professional athletes. It’s like superhero status.

For example, when the Oakland A’s opened their 2012 regular season in Japan, the cover story for the sports section of the Maui Times the next morning featured a huge Associated Press photograph of Maui native Kurt Suzuki hitting a pitch for a double and an AP game story that included a graphic box entitled “From Maui to the Majors” with a headshot of the A’s catcher and a brief summary of his line in the box score from the game.

This is old school scrapbook material for the Suzuki family, the likes few newspapers offer these days, especially one that is the daily paper for an island of 150,000 residents.

Inside the same sports section that day was a similar “From Maui To The Majors” graphic box featuring another Maui native, Phillies’ centerfielder Shane Victorino. It listed his spring training statistics.

Who says exhibition games are meaningless? In Maui, they are front page news. If Victorino gets a hit in the last inning of a lopsided spring game against a pitcher with a number in the 80s on his back, well, it’s chronicled and highlighted in significance in Maui as the five-day weather forecast.

Some cynics may think this is a small-town news approach to journalism where the big events come off the police blotter. A-cat-stuck-in-a-tree-rescued-by-local-firemen breaking news story.

I think it’s refreshing. It goes back to the old days when local-boy-does-good stories were relished and wound up Scotch taped or pasted inside giant scrapbooks for generations to read. Now those stories get lost, buried or completely overlooked and ignored while celebrity news or negative, sickening, cable-TV-host-emotion-evoking news hogs the headlines.

The Maui News’ coverage of Suzuki and Victorino is welcomed news. Like the island itself, it takes us back to a time and place to the simple pleasures in life.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What It Feels Like When You're The Last One To Know

KIHEI, Hawaii – I always like to say I’m the last one to know.

Well, I am. I’m in Maui on a business/pleasure trip and I’m the last one to know what happened in the world of sports during the day. ESPN SportsCenter Los Angeles is supposed to have the final word in sports each day but it is old news by the time I get it. They don’t have ESPN SportsCenter Lahaina.

Magic Johnson’s group bought the Dodgers for $2 billion?! By the time I found, inflation would have pegged it at $2.2 billion.

Oakland A’s lose season opener?! If I wanted to watch it, it would have been yesterday.

Bill Parcells may coach the New Orleans Saints?! Got wind of that earlier because Parcells’ ego is so big it rubs the Hawaiian Time Zone.

Most people have jet lag. I have SportsCenter lag. Takes me a few days to catch up to everything.

So someone please tell me if the New England Patriots won the Super Bowl?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Warriors fans: Give the Monta Ellis-for-Andrew Bogut trade the benefit of the doubt

OAKLAND – Larry Riley kept jabbing his fingers on the table as he spoke, but he might as well have been pointing them.

All day on Wednesday he had heard and sensed that nobody among Golden State Warriors fans or Golden State Warriors media not affiliated with the team or its payroll or its television network much cared much about him trading Monta Ellis for a player with a bad ankle when he already has a player on his team with a bad ankle.

Warriors’ math: Two bad ankles equal one big turnaround next year. New math.

Well, Larry was ready to lash out at his critics in a press conference before Wednesday night’s game with the Boston Celtics. He made his point. He didn’t mince words.

“Our mandate has been `Be aggressive. Let’s get something done here’,” the Warriors general manager said. “Some of you from time to time even wrote `It’s the same old thing.’ It’s not the same old thing anymore.”

Nope. These are the 21st Century Warriors and they don’t get their big man until they damn well get their big man. The last time the franchise tried so hard to trade for a true center, 1987, they got 27-year-old Ralph Sampson and his history of bad knees for a package that included popular guard Eric “Sleepy” Floyd.

OK, that didn’t work out exactly as planned but these Warriors are tired of status quote this season with a new coach and new ownership. They did something bold.

Plan A was to get Tyson Chandler. Plan B was to get Deandre Jordan. Plan C was to get Kwame Brown.

Strike One. Strike Two. Strike Three.

So the Warriors kept swinging until Plan D delivered the true ‘5’they have desperately sought for weeks, if not months and years and decades.

Yes, trading for 27-year-old seven-footer Andrew Bogut is a risk considering he can’t stay in his feet long enough to live up to his potential as a former No. 1` pick overall in the NBA. Riley admits that much, realizing this trade was done with the hope and expectation that Bogut will get healthy and quit getting hurt.

But, really, what choice did Riley and Warriors have? They have been spinning their wheels with talk of getting better and making the post season.

“We were stuck,” Riley said. “You want to be stuck three games below .500 at this time of the year every year? That’s where we were and that’s where we’re going to go the next year if we couldn’t do something.”

So give this trade time to find a gear and maneuver. Most likely we won’t know until next season if it was worth it. Riley said Wednesday night that point guard Stephen Curry won’t play again this season until he is 100 percent. So unless there is some “We Believe” magic in this team, the Warriors are not going to be in the playoffs this season as the owner and coach promised.

To their credit, they could have played it safe and kept Monta . They took a risk and, if it shapes up as planned, Curry will return as a true point guard, rookie Klay Thompson will evolve as a true two guard to replace Ellis and Bogut will be the first true quality center they have lacked in 25 years.

It’s not the same old thing.