Insight, News, and Opinion by Nick Abramo
  • April 13, 2021
LOT O’ SATURDAY SPORTS SNIPPETS: The Preview Edition

On Saturdays, nobody is on the Internet checking out what to read.

Except you. And now that I’ve got your attention, I’d like to give you a look into what’s next at NickAbramo.com. There are a lot of new and exciting things on the way.

Saturdays are a day I personally like to clear the notebook, so to speak. Many ideas for stories from the week (or month) are sitting there in list form — still — not yet in digestible form for the consumer/reader. Like any list, the question is when can I get to them all with full attention? Writing is easier than construction work, but it is harder than snapping your fingers.

But today, I’m going to break down that barrier. I’m going to write about ALL OF THEM. Well, let’s slow the roll just a little bit. What I mean is, I’m going to attack four or five of them that would have ended up as Saturday Snippets anyway.

But I’m also going to give a few paragraphs or more on some of the other ideas kicking around. A preview of things to come in the future of sorts, when some of these ideas can turn into full-blown features.

So today, we’ll call it Snippet/Preview Saturday. And you can probably think of worse things to do with your next 10 minutes (or less, depending on what you choose to skip over). That’s right, its a 10-minute read. Can you dig (a huge line from the late ’60s)?

FROM WEBSITE HEADQUARTERS

Redesign Tentative Launch Date Is Aug. 9

Yes, yes, yes. I can’t wait for this. It’s going to be a much better look and, hopefully, a place for you to check out from time to time. (Or daily??!!)

There are professionals (not me) on this job. Bye-bye drab. Hello colorful, exciting (and informative).

Advertisers/Partners Are Being Sought

The following step (and this is a big one) is to attract advertisers and partners. This takes sales skills, which I don’t have much of.

But still, we (the launch team and other supporters) will be trying to get some small, medium and large companies who might be interested in banner or display ads. That will feed the kids.

Of course, any potential advertiser will want to see lots of page views. As Middle-Aged Man in that SNL skit would say, “We’re working on it.

And things are going as well as can be expected for a less-than-three-month old endeavor. The numbers, we feel, will only get better.

And when you get right down to it, the work will speak for itself. Either NickAbramo.com will become part of the daily fabric of sports coverage in Hawaii (and a place advertisers want to be) or it won’t. Either there will be stories worth reading by the masses or there won’t.

Thems the rules.

And now the snippets/previews by sport/category:

 

BOOKS

Hawaii’s Own Jack Danilewicz Scores With ‘The Greatest Upset Never Seen’

You may remember Jack Danilewicz, a longtime writer at Midweek who also freelanced with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin in the early 2000s.

In 2019, University of Nebraska Press published Jack’s “The Greatest Upset Never Seen: Virginia, Chaminade and the Game That Changed College Basketball.”

I’m started reading it the other day and hope to interview Jack about his experience writing it in the near future.

The first line of the preface reads: “Where were you when Chaminade upset Ralph Sampson and No. 1-ranked Virginia on December 23, 1982?”

It’s an amazing story and it happened during cable TV’s infancy and therefore was not captured by the nation’s media right away like would have happened nowadays. Danilewicz takes us back to that time with his usual spot-on detailed reporting.

Here are parts of two reviews on the back of the jacket:

Nearly four decades after the colossal upset that both astounded and charmed the college basketball world, ‘The Greatest Upset Never Seen’ provides a front-row ticket to relive tiny Chaminade University’s 1982 takedown of No. 1 Virginia and the towering Ralph Sampson.

Mike Deacon, veteran Chicago sportswriter

 

Jack’s book is an outstanding look back at a once-in-a-lifetime upset and a must-read for any sports fan.

David Kaplan, sports radio host

 

The big upset made the Maui Invitational (with Chaminade as the host school) possible a few years later. The popular national tournament that runs Thanksgiving week each year is still on track to be played in 2020 (but it’s in jeopardy of being canceled due to COVID-19), according to recent reports.

 

Story Of Soichi Sakamoto And Maui’s Olympic Swimmers Was A Great Read

From a sugar plantation irrigation ditch to national fame in swimming. Amazing.

A coach on Maui, Soichi Sakamoto, created a group called “The Three-Year Swim Club” in 1937 and that name is also the title of Julie Checkoway‘s book published in 2015. The subtitle is: “The Untold Story of Maui’s Sugar Ditch Kids and Their Quest for Olympic Glory.”

The club produced many success stories despite the humble beginnings of basically starting in dirty water and way-less-than-ideal conditions. The goal was to make the Olympics, but World War II got in the way, canceling the Summer Games in 1940 and 1944.

It didn’t stop Hawaii’s Keo Nakama, Bill Smith, Halo Hirose and others from going very, very far in the sport. Smith eventually made the Olympic Games in ’48.

Here’s a little bit about what they accomplished:

SMITH

>> Won two gold medals at the 1948 Olympic Games — in the 4×200-meter freestyle relay and the men’s 400 freestyle.

>> Won 15 national AAU championships

>> Earned eight NCAA championships

>> Held 18 American records and seven world records

>> Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1966

NAKAMA

>> Won 13 NCAA and AAU national titles, 27 national championships, five Pan-American Games titles, five Australian national titles and eight Big Ten championships at Ohio State.

>> Held world records in the mile and made the first-ever crossing of the 27-mile Kaiwi Channel.

>> Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1975

HIROSE

>> First Japanese-American to represent the U.S. in any international swimming competition.

>> First Japanese-American to set a swimming world record (as part of the 4×100-meter freestyle U.S. team in Germany in 1938)

>> National AAU 800-meter freestyle champion in record time.

>> Three-time All-American at Ohio State and member of the Ohio State University Sports Hall of Fame

>> Inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame as a pioneer swimmer

HOCKEY

Maui Players Got A Chance To Play Against NHLers For Fun In The 1990s

Three Maui guys that I know of — Wes Freiwald, Kris Vadla and Randy Morton — were lucky enough to play inline hockey against a bunch of NHL players during the summers in the 1990s on the Valley Isle

They called the place they played the “Cane Palace.” It was apparently a big building being constructed out near a cane field, and so they figured out they could play on the cement floor of the foundation. The exact details of the story are hazy, for now.

But apparently, Mark Messier and Luc Robitaille were among the players, and Mike Myers (who played Middle Aged Man in that SNL skit mentioned previously) of the Austin Powers movies was a guest player.

Soon after the start of the COVID-19 health crisis, I reached Freiwald and Vadla, but they were way too busy for an interview. I could not reach Morton, but I heard he was previously a manager at the Bellagio in Las Vegas.

This is a great story that I want to tell and I eventually hope to talk to them in detail so I can do just that.

An aerial photo of the "Cane Palace" on Maui from the 1990s. Don't know what that flying contraption is. (Courtesy of Wes Freiwald).

Freiwald played ice hockey for Cornell. (Or Colgate; but I will get the definite answer when we talk again).

In the early 1990s, he brought his Maui adult team to play the first inter-island inline hockey game on Kauai (where I was fielding a Garden Isle team). We played two or three games over two days at Waialua Houselots Park on a converted practice tennis court.

Freiwald is a part-time trainer with the San Jose Sharks.

Oh yeah, it was kind of bummer that the NHL players didn’t happen to be vacationing on Kauai at that time and jonesing to play inline hockey. Oh well. Vadla still lives on Maui, is active in the Maui Inline Hockey Association, and comes over to Oahu for tournaments at the state-of-the-art, indoor, two-rink Kapolei Inline Hockey Arenas.

BASEBALL

Joey Cantillo: Outstanding In 2019 Class-A Season

Eventually, we’ll catch up with Joey Cantillo, the former Kailua High star who is in the San Diego Padres’ organization.

For now, we’ll just give you a little update:

In 2019, Cantillo went 9-3 with a 1.93 earned-run average for the Class-A Fort Wayne TinCaps of the Midwest League. He also had 128 strikeouts in 98 innings before being promoted to Class-A Advanced Lake Elsinore Storm.

At that upper level, Cantillo went 1-1 with a 4.61 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 13.2 innings.

Cantillo is ranked the Padres’ No. 9 minor league prospect by the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Joey Cantillo pitched during a game last season. (Photo from the San Diego Union-Tribune).

To some, Cantillo — who is 6 feet 4 and 220 pounds — is on the fast track to the San Diego Padres. He was also the subject of a feature story recently on MLB.com.

I remember the day in 2017 that I had the pleasure to write about Cantillo striking out 18 Kalani High batters.

FOOTBALL/SURFING

 

Pivotal Point In Ezekiel Lau’s career

Leonard Lau, the football interim head coach at Punahou, is the father of Ezekiel Lau, the World Surf League competitor.

Zeke will be retooling his game for the 2021 world tour after a disappointing 28th-place finish in the 2019 WSL standings. He needed to place 22nd or higher to requalify and will be on the qualifying series instead of the top-tier tour when competition resumes.

Only 26, Lau — who finished 20th on tour in 2018 — has the talent and savvy in waves of consequence to move up toward the top in the years to come.

The WSL scrapped the 2020 championship tour due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

A former University of Hawaii receiver, Leonard Lau and his Buffanblu football squad — and football coaches and teams from around the state — are awaiting word on what will happen for Hawaii high school football this fall.

Technically, practice is scheduled to start Aug. 19, but that is in jeopardy due to a recent uptick in coronavirus cases. Many coaches are hoping football can be moved to the winter or spring.

FOOTBALL

Kelii Kekuewa Lands A Job With Seattle Seahawks

Keli’i Kekuewa, who played football at Kamehameha-Hawaii, Arizona Western and Bowling Green, is working for the Seattle Seahawks. He’s in quality control and helping with the offensive line, according to Doris Sullivan of the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance.

Former Kamehameha-Hawaii football player Kelii Kekuewa is listed as an offensive assistant on the Seattle Seahawks' website. (Photo from Seahawks.com)

Kekuewa has been at some big-name places, building up his resume. He was a graduate assistant at Wake Forest, Minnesota and Notre Dame.

In March, Kekuewa tweeted: “It’s that time of year, the Kekuewa’s are moving to Seattle. New and exciting opportunity for my career, hope to be here for a while. Go Hawks!”

Hawaii Is Mad About Football Recruiting

It’s no secret, Hawaii is a hotbed for football. It has been for a while, but every year, more and more players, it seems, are heading off from here to NCAA Division I FBS colleges.

According to HawaiiPrepWorld.com numbers, 33 student athletes from the Class of 2020 in Hawaii signed letters of intent to play at college football’s top level — the most since that site started keeping track in 2016.

Between 2016 and ’20, 129 kids have signed to FBS schools, including 24 in ’16, 21 in ’17, 20 in ’18 and 31 in ’19.

There’s no signs of the trend slowing down — 19 Hawaii seniors from the Class of 2021 (who are still waiting to see if there will be a 2020 season due to COVID-19) have at least one D-I FBS offer. In addition, there are six juniors and three sophomores who also have at least one offer.

Campbell wide receiver Titus Mokiao-Atimalala, who is 6-0 and 170 pounds, leads the 2021 pack with 19 offers — Arizona, Arizona State, California, Hawaii, Maryland, Michigan, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Oregon, Oregon State, Tennessee, UCF, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Utah, Washington, Washington State and Wisconsin.

Imagine this: Ho-hum mom, I just got an offer from Notre Dame!!!!

Will Campbell's Titus Mokiao-Atimalala get to play his senior season?

Manti Te’o (Punahou Class of 2009 and now an NFL veteran free agent) made that possible by committing to the Fighting Irish and winding up as the Heisman Trophy runner-up in 2012.

Go to Hawaii Prep World to see the latest recruiting data.

Six States Consider Banning Tackling In Youth Football

Six states have considered bills that would ban tackling in youth football.

They are: New York (12 and under), Massachusetts (seventh grade and below), New Jersey (under 12), Maryland (under 14), Illinois (under 12) and California (under 12), according to BrainLaw.com. So far, there have been no outright bans.

The proposed legislation is a result of the link being drawn by health professionals between brain injury and football.

My Very Own Al Gore-ism: I Invented Fantasy Football

Former Vice President Al Gore got hammered for saying he invented the Internet. Lost on a lot of people was that he was just trying to say his generation had the goods and the smarts to get it done.

Well, in a similar fashion, I’m going to take credit for inventing fantasy football.

Of course, I didn’t invent it, but how many people can say they were playing it in the age before it was on the Internet? You young-uns can’t imagine how fun that was. In 1987, I was a 27-year-old in between jobs with nothing to do, so I went to the mall, saw a book about it and was intrigued.

I got friends to join and I fully remember that first league had eight teams. I was the AFC (Abramo Football Club) Orangemen, but we also had the Meathooks, Border Pigs, Nunu Numbskulls, Gastijoes and Vigilantes. I can’t remember the other two names. In the league final, the Numbskulls (with Jerry Rice) beat the Meathooks.

No, we didn’t look at a computer for scores. I had to tally them up from the next day’s Boston Globe sports page.

The book I picked up at the Natick Mall in Massachusetts in the late summer of 1987. At that time, I had an inkling that fantasy football could become big, but I had no idea there would be a gigantic, computer-fueled boom.

Players I remember being in my starting lineup that year (second place in the division) were Dave Krieg at QB, Curt Warner and Troy Stradford at RB, and Mark Clayton and Gary Clark at WR.

I didn’t play fantasy football in the 1990s, when I lived on Kauai, but I started again (on the computer) in 2000, when I moved to Oahu. I stopped playing after the 2002 season. It got boring having immediate statistics (instead of the anticipation of waiting for the next day’s paper) and, by then, everybody in the world, it seemed, was playing.

 

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