For these kids, substance beats style
By Lee Cataluna
"We not useted to dat." Those were the words of West O'ahu team manager Layton Aliviado describing his team's reaction to autograph seekers at the Little League World Series.
Those were the words of West O'ahu team manager Layton Aliviado describing his team's reaction to autograph seekers at the Little League World Series.
While other teams savored their air time, mugging for TV cameras and showing off their silly rituals, there wasn't much coverage of the Hawai'i boys hamming it up.
Most often, the video in the montages showed them seriously considering the game at hand, eyes wide, mouths shut. They bowed their heads and looked down in response to reporters' questions rather than take the cue that they're supposed to say something colorful.
Even in the few shots of the boys playing around off the field, they looked restrained, as if the person behind the camera had to order them to act like cocky kids gunning for glory.
They not useted to showing off like dat.
In a photo of the team meeting Penn State football coach Joe Paterno, the boys are seated, some with their hats on, though rules of etiquette dictate they should stand and doff their caps. In the picture, the kids are barely able to make eye contact or extend a confident handshake.
They not useted to dat, either.
Here is a team of 11- and 12-year-olds from a place where you don't draw that sort of attention to yourself. ABC announcer Brent Musburger kept saying 'Ewa Beach was "just outside Honolulu." Anyone who has been there knows 'Ewa Beach is NOT just outside Honolulu. It is practically an island of its own, a community that has grown like a hardy, sun-bleached vine on the sagging chain-link fences that separate the remnants of a dusty plantation past from the rows of salmon-colored air-conditioned townhouses.
It is not a place tourists visit. It is not a place legions of locals wish they could move to. When Campbell High School won the math bowl over Punahou a few years back, no one was more surprised than the champions themselves.
Those who love 'Ewa Beach know the place in a way that most could never understand. It is how all of Hawai'i used to feel.
In that way, 'Ewa Beach represents the best of who we are, who we were, the values that have been overshadowed by the cultural climate that tells us style wins out over substance and sizzle is the best part of steak.
In 'Ewa Beach, it's about the meat, salt and pepper, pulehu on the rusty oil-drum grill.
These boys have reminded us of the values of generations past: to be humble, unpretentious, modest; more ha'aha'a than ha'aheo. Yes, that may mistakenly come off as meek rather than composed and unpolished rather than courteous. But when backed up by discipline, solid training, carefully practiced skills and unflagging spirit, it is an attitude that is quite beautifully representative of the best of who we are as well as the gentility of the sport of baseball.
As for the national media attention and the crush of adoring fans?
They better get useted to dat.
Lee Cataluna's column runs Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Reach her at 535-8172 or email@example.com.