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Opinion: Less politics, more football

Updated: 
June 18, 2017 - 12:05am

Pssst! Heard some of the behind-the-scenes rumblings about the Hawaii High School Athletic Association State Football Championship?

On the heels of the Oahu Interscholastic Association’s avowed intention of boycotting the Open Division, one rumor making the rounds had some neighbor island leagues kicking around the thought of declaring for the Open Division but strategically bypassing Division I.

According to a scenario circulated, Kamehameha, Punahou and Saint Louis of the Interscholastic League of Honolulu would declare for Division I. That would, of course, bring the ILH powers facemask to facemask with Kahuku, Waianae, Mililani, Kapolei, etc. of the OIA, making Division I the de facto Open Division while thwarting the OIA’s revisionist plans to kill a three-tiered state tournament.

Got that?

Forget about the players’ jersey numbers, so deep is the pettiness practiced these days that you need a scorecard just to keep track of the scheming. Political football, indeed.

Of course it could all be put out there with tongue in close proximity of the cheek, a spoof of the OIA. As the machinations increasingly take on Machiavellian tones, sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate.

Just as it is difficult to comprehend how the events of distant 1969, when the OIA and ILH first divided up the blankets, manage to still so deeply impact high school sports today. And why people who should know better still cling so fiercely to them.

Yet, in this summer of interscholastic intrigue, they do, as events surrounding last week’s Hawaii Interscholastic Athletic Directors Association events reminded us.

Not long after the HIADA reaffirmed the Open Division as part of the return of a three-tier format by a 63-27 vote and the HHSAA Executive Board approved it by a weighted 65.75-29.25 ballot, the OIA signalled its petulant intention to boycott the Open Division this season.

Once upon a time “cunning” and “crafty” — not to mention “devious” — were terms used to describe stratagem on the field. Not curious concoctions taking place in the back rooms of the leagues.

I mean, this is high school football, not national health care. It doesn’t — and shouldn’t — have to be so complicated. Or so fraught with acrimony and tension.

It is, after all, for the kids. At least that is the premise that the state tournament is supposed to be operated upon.

Instead, we have not too many adults waging the athletics version of the Hatfields vs. McCoys, carrying on a feud that should have been dead and buried decades ago, but, instead, threatens to hold progress back generations later.

State football is the big money-maker in high school, the sport whose proceeds help underwrite many others, and holding it hostage to one-upmanship is a dangerous path to take your golden goose down.

Preseason football is just around the corner now and the Sept. 1 drop dead date, by which the leagues are to classify their teams for state purposes, isn’t all that far off.

If they are serious about solutions instead of provincial thinking and brinkmanship, then there still remains time for reasonable schools to reassess their stands. Time enough, you would hope, for them to find and agree on some common ground that makes the state tournaments all that they can be and not a casualty of petty politics.

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