Gerhart: Sweet dreams, BIIF fans, there’s much to miss these days

  • Waiakea’s Davin Arkangel’s spike is blocked by Hilo’s Kaala Deitch during Friday night’s game hosted by the Vikings. (Tim Wright/Hawaii Tribune-Herald)

  • Each of the eight BIIF springs sports — golf, baseball, judo, track and field, softball, water polo, boys volleyball and tennis — that were shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic are sorely missed. (Hawaii Tribune-Herald/File Photos)

I was covering BIIF tennis the other day, though my memory of the experience is a little too fuzzy to offer much of a report.

I think I was at Waiakea High School, but the layout of the courts were more expansive than I remembered, and the confusing part came when Hilo’s baseball team showed up. The players were celebrating on their bus before a game?

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There must have been many sporting events going on, because I remember frantically searching for the right tennis court and worrying about how I was going to fit it all in. Could I find the match, write about tennis, keep score of a baseball game and …

Then I woke up.

Yes, I dream about covering BIIF sports these days — a lot.

There are bigger problems in the world, to be sure, but while the shutdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly justifiable, it’s infected me with a certain malaise.

My girlfriend has never given me credit for having too much of a life outside of work — “Sometimes you’re married to the Trib!” my local girl likes to say — but I think this is the classic case of not knowing how much you’ll miss something until it’s gone.

The annual summer shutdown is inevitable and anticipated. We put the finishing wraps on the all-BIIF teams when school’s out, refocus while covering youth baseball, paddling and other pursuits while burning some vacation time, then get ready to dive into football previews.

But this indefinite and premature shutdown of the robust spring season feels different.

A few weeks ago, I texted Waiakea athletic director Tom Correa with a scheduling question regarding March 14, and we half-joked about trying to pack in a Saturday of full of judo, track and field, tennis, and boys volleyball coverage. Start at 9 a.m., finish maybe 12 hours later.

Then, it seemed like a lot of work.

Now, it seems like a lot of fun.

I’m not ungrateful for having a job during this turbulent time, but work seems more like, well, work these days with no BIIF sports around:

• I miss showing up at the Wong Stadium press box for a baseball game and being greeted by a smile from ageless public address announcer Royden Okunami. He doesn’t hear as well as he used to, and I’ve never been accused of talking all that smoothly, but we communicate well all the same.

• I miss the seemingly endless enthusiasm of Kealakehe softball coach Loni Mercado. She’s positive win or lose, and recently the Waveriders have enjoyed much more of the former. I miss checking in with Kohala. The small school isn’t competitive in every sport, but softball — along, of course, with boys basketball — is one of them. Could they have taken down eight-time BIIF D-II champion Kamehameha this season?

• I miss getting out of my car at Kamehameha, heading toward Naeole Pool and wondering if something were wrong? Not at all. That’s not screaming. Teaching is in progress, and some water polo coaches are a little more demonstrative than others.

• Track and field has become one of my favorites. With meets starting at 9 a.m. and lasting some four or five hours, there are story lines aplenty each week involving 16 events for boys and girls. Covering the sport on a week-to-week basis doesn’t always require punctuality. I miss showing up to a meet midstream and asking either stats guru Bob Martin or Kamehameha athletic director Kimo Weaver to catch me up to speed on the day’s highlights. They send me on my way with a handful of ideas in mind, to the infield or to the stands, to find athletes.

• Ditto with judo during the regular season. With matches going on simultaneously on multiple mats during a meet, it can be hard to wrap your head around it all. I miss finding Waiakea coach Jason Tanaka and saying two words to him: save me. He always does by passing along pertinent info.

• I miss talking it up with Waiakea tennis coach Bill Brilhante, who’s always eager to share his fountain of information, as is Kohala coach Hermann Fernandez. Neither of them limit their expertise to their respective teams.

• I never thought I’d miss trying to haplessly keep statistics during a volleyball match, but here we are. None of the previous places I’ve lived, all on the mainland, held anything close to the passion for the sport that the Big Island does, and while I’ve always enjoyed it, early on here I couldn’t tell a kill from a spike nor a pass from a set. I’ve been straightened out for the most part, though kudos to the UHH stats crew and co-worker Kevin Jakahi for making it seem so simple.

• I miss following golf from a far. The scene always shifts to West Hawaii after the first tournament at Hilo Municipal Golf Course. There are a couple of prominent BIIF golfers whom I’ve never met or even talked to, but I can always count on them to reply to texts.

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I almost even miss the embarrassing stuff, such as when a parent calls to inform me I’ve misspelled an athlete’s name. Unfortunately, some athletes have had their names misspelled more than once or both names have appeared wrong. At least one parent presumed me to be a fool, and who’s to argue? My girlfriend would probably agree.

What I won’t miss is this virus. Here’s to staying healthy so we can meet at a BIIF contest soon.

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