The Linsantity is not unique to the islands. Through the years, there have been frenzies over Hawaii sports stars that have reached fever pitch. Such as:
Star is born: Kuhaulua went to Japan to become Takamiyama, a sumotori whose success helped popularize the centuries-old sport in Hawaii. In 1972, he became the first foreign-born sumotori to win a top-division championship. Interest was so great that delayed telecasts of tournaments aired in Hawaii on the channel that eventually spawned KFVE.
Postscript: Kuhaulua, who still lives in Japan, started a stable that launched the career of Akebono, one of the few foreign-born yokozuna. The downside was Hawaii’s success led to tightening of admission rules for foreigners.
The Fabulous Five
Stars are born: For two years, basketball’s original Fabulous Five — John Penebacker, Dwight Holiday, Jerome Freeman, Bob Nash and Al Davis — were more popular in Hawaii than the Jackson Five. They played to SRO crowds in the Honolulu International Center (now Blaisdell Arena), and became the first UH team to play in the NCAA Tournament. They also made a fashion statement with their aloha-print uniforms.
Postscript: They still remain popular in Hawaii lore, although the program suffered a few years after they completed their eligibility. Head coach Red Rocha learned he was fired at the team’s postseason banquet, and his successor, eventually would be rocked by NCAA violations that placed the program on probation for two years.
Star is born: The Aiea High graduate was the Valenzuela of his time, a strikeout machine who struck a chord with Hawaii’s baseball community. He became the first NCAA pitcher to win 20 games in a season.
Postscript: Fans had hoped he would graduate immediately to the major leagues. He did, only it was to professional baseball in Japan, where he signed a lucrative contract. While UH’s baseball stadium is named after head coach Les Murakami, it was Tatsuno’s success that is credited with its construction.
Star is born: Timing is everything, and the volleyball Warriors benefitted from the opening of the Special Events Arena (now the Stan Sheriff Center) in 2004. Katz was the Justin Timberlake of a pop group that played before enthusiastic crowds. With the Rubberband Man (and sometimes his dance partner Warren), fans soon discovered they could rock and roll without the UH band or cheerleaders. The players were so popular, to all ages, that they often were smuggled out of the arena in laundry bins.
Postscript: After two seasons, Katz left UH to pursue a pro career. The program continued to thrive for several years, culminating in a victory over Pepperdine in the 2002 NCAA championship match. But that victory was vacated two years later when it was ruled that Costas Theocharidis, although not paid, jeopardized his amateur status when he played alongside professionals in a European league before attending UH.
Star is born: There was a time when anything Brennan signed became a Christmas stocking stuffer. The mania sparked after he announced he would return to UH for his senior season, and heightened through the unbeaten 2007 regular season, highlighted with his third-place finish in the Heisman Trophy voting. He received a standing ovation when he was announced at his UH graduation. Natural Vibrations played at his graduation party. He even was forgiven for sporting dreadlocks.
Postscript: Injuries have hurt his pursuit of a pro career. He underwent four surgeries for his knees and hips during an 18-month span. In November 2010, he suffered life-threatening injuries during a car crash. Still, he is training for a comeback. Liz Kauai remains his No. 1 fan.