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Sports fans in Hawaii are glued to televisions today to cheer on the home team. Not a pro sports franchise, or even the Warriors of UH, the sports event of the day is – little league baseball.
The players may be young but they’re veterans. This is the second time the All-Stars from Waipio have made it to the Little League World Series in three years. They won the championship in 2008, three years after Ewa Beach was the first Hawaii team to win the series. Their games have been shown in sports bars, diners and the UH Campus Center for the past week. I caught part of one on the weekend. When the players are introduced, the information on the screen includes their height and weight as well as “Favorite Movie.” (At least on Saturday, “Transformers” was leading in that category.)
The enthusiasm shown by island residents for their young champions is not unusual. There are no pro sports teams in Hawaii, but everyone here seems to love sports. So they cheer for youth sports events, like this one, and high school sports gets a much larger section of the evening newscast than in many other places. I remember the first time I was walking home in the evening past a restaurant where patrons were gathered to watch sports on television. Rather than a pro event, they were cheering the University of Hawaii women’s volleyball team. I am old enough to remember when women’s sports were only intramural, even at the college level. The sight of a community cheering on a women’s team made my eyes mist a little.
I expected enthusiasm for surfing events when I moved here, and that is certainly in evidence as well. In fact, this weekend brings a major event to Waikiki. Beach volleyball, surfing and a one-mile swim are all part of the annual Duke’s OceanFest which concludes Saturday.
But the big news of the weekend rests on some pretty small shoulders. Waipio has battled back through the consolation bracket, staying alive one game at a time. They’re already heroes in the hearts of Hawaii.