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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 9, 2002

2+2 doesn't always equal fair play when it comes to sporting world

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

There was a story at the top of the front page of The Advertiser yesterday that was rare enough in the real world but would have been of Richter scale proportions had it taken place in sports.

In case you missed the Math Bowl, Kaiser High's three-member team in the statewide high school mathematics championship did a noble and all-too-rare thing Saturday.

After being declared the winner of the competition, they were reviewing their papers during a lunch break when they discovered an incorrect answer had been certified as correct by referees and overlooked by crosscheckers.

The students could have kept quiet, kept the trophy and nobody but themselves would have been the wiser, something athletes manage to do all the time. Instead, and this is the part that is both remarkable and refreshing, they spoke up though they knew it would likely cost them the title. And, in fact, when everything was recalculated and played off, they finished third behind Iolani and King Kekaulike.

It is a situation we aren't likely to see repeated in most sports anytime soon. The next time a high school baseball team hands back the state championship because one of its players missed second base, it might be a first. Don't hold your breath waiting for an offensive lineman in the state football championship game to say he held an opponent on the winning touchdown pass.

Similarly, don't expect a coach to tell the officials his team was off-side on a game-saving goalline stand or actually touched the ball on an aloha ball point in volleyball.

Heaven help the player or coach who did because, in any number of places they would have been berated for having denied the team, its fans or parents, a championship.

That's the way it is not just in high schools, who often take their cues from colleges and the pros, but much of sports.

In everything but golf, where pros often do turn themselves in for rules violations that might have otherwise gone unnoticed, or an occasional self-made let call in tennis, there is a different midset at work.

I mean, can you imagine Allen Iverson waving off one of his own baskets? Don't count on him — or anybody — saying, "Uh, Mr. Referee, sir, I took eight instead of the permitted six steps." Remember, this is the NBA playoffs we're talking about.

Nor should we expect to see, say, running back Emmitt Smith running to inform officials, "Golly, the ball actually slipped out before I hit the ground."

Don't wait for Mike Piazza to ask the umpire to throw out a ball his pitcher has doctored during a tight game in the pennant race.

Call it "gamesmanship" "seeking an edge," the "breaks of the game" or, maybe even cheating; it is handed down and taken as gospel that you are entitled to whatever you can get away with. Bend the rules like a Rold Gold, if you can. Mum is the word when it might hurt player or team.

Former major league manager Dick Williams used to be the valedictorian on the subject, saying, "Anything short of murder is OK."

Judging by the incidents of a more egregious sort, actual, premeditated cheating — corked or pine tarred bats, spitballs, illegal hockey sticks, doctored footballs and performance enhancing drugs — he was not alone.

Gaylord Perry got a place in baseball's the Hall of Fame with the occasional aid of what has been alleged to have been a wider assortment of grease products than pitches.

Against this historical backdrop, what the Kaiser High students did over the weekend isn't likely to catch on in sports.

But maybe that just makes what they did all the more remarkable.