By Ferd Lewis
In the world according to University of Hawai'i Rainbow Wahine volleyball coach Dave Shoji, Texas borders Mississippi, there are 49 states in the union, Tabasco sauce doesn't have a birthplace and there is no team named the Saints in the NFL.
"Neeeeever heard of it," Shoji maintains.
"Don't know it," Shoji professes.
So, where would the No. 4-ranked Rainbow Wahine be if they earn a berth in the NCAA final four this year?
"In a good position," Shoji deadpanned.
Yes, a funny thing has happened on the way to the NCAA Championships, Dec. 19-21, in New Orleans: Shoji has all but erased the site of the final four from his memory. He has banned it from his and even his family's vocabulary.
After months of listening to the growing national championship expectations of friends and fans, Shoji is trying to apply brakes to the runaway enthusiasm that has been building since Lily Kahumoku's return to a team that went to the Sweet 16 without the All-American.
With the 15th Hawaiian Airlines Wahine Volleyball Classic and the season opener against ninth-ranked Ohio State but two days away, Shoji is trying to put the focus on the present instead of December.
Shoji says he arrived at this most desperate of measures when he became convinced the you-know-where-or-bust sentiment was reaching epidemic proportions here. "One of my close friends told me he bought a non-refundable ticket to a certain city for December," he said.
Another friend, a UH staff member, to whom he lost a dinner bet, informed Shoji he now wants the debt paid in December at Ralph & Kacoo's, a restaurant in the French Quarter.
"I got tired of hearing about it (New Orleans and the final four)," Shoji said. "It is a long way off and we have a lot of other things to worry about before then. The season is just getting started."
In the meantime, he has banned mention of the site from his family's usage. "My wife (Mary) isn't allowed to mention it at all," Shoji said. "She can't mention any cities outside the state of Hawai'i, except Fargo, N.D. (her hometown)."
"We certainly look forward to the season, but at home and I know this sounds cliche we're taking them one at a time this year," Mary Shoji said.
But it hasn't been easy ignoring the Big Easy and all that it would mean to the Rainbow Wahine. Shoji acknowledges he slipped once in addressing the booster club recently, mentioning what he has now come to term, "a certain city in a certain state."
"I had to scold myself for that," he said.