Sai Poulivaati hadn't been used to winning on the football field. Not at Cleveland High, where the Warriors were 1-8 his senior year. Not at Oregon State, where he played on Jerry Pettibone's first two teams that combined for a record of 2-29-1.
But nobody can say Poulivaati didn't go out in style. The 6-2, 295-pound lineman helped the Tampa Bay Storm claim the Arena Football League championship in June, then announced his retirement as a player after nine years in Arena ball.
'It was a good way to end it,' says Poulivaati, 30, who is attending summer school at OSU as he works toward a master's degree in education. 'I had never played for anything meaningful before, so to win the Arena Bowl (XVII) É to walk off that field knowing that, for one day at least, you were the best at what you do, that was a really big thing for me.'
A defensive tackle at Oregon State, Poulivaati played center and nose guard for a Storm team that beat Arizona 43-29 for the Arena League title.
The euphoria has been tempered by the death a month ago of his mother, Mele Maumi, in Portland.
'There have been some highs but some lows, because my biggest fan isn't here to share the thrill of it with me,' Poulivaati says. 'Mom is the person who was always there, during my days at Cleveland and OSU, all the hard times. And now, when we win it all, she wasn't there.
'But she predicted it. I talked to her on Mother's Day, and she said, 'I think this is going to be the year for you.' And she was right.'
During previous Arena League offseasons, Poulivaati returned to Oregon and served as an assistant coach at Cleveland, Tualatin High and Willamette High in Eugene. He wants to be a teacher and coach. Now he will have a championship ring to show his players.
• Chris Dudley and his wife, Christine, recently completed their eighth annual sports camp in Vernonia for children with diabetes. If there's a more worthwhile youth camp, I don't know of it. Dudley, a diabetic, brings in kids from across the country and even from abroad for a week in which they find that a disease is nothing to stop them from doing what they want to do.
'Growing up, I had role models in hockey's Bobby Clarke and a triathlete in San Diego,' says Dudley, who recently retired after 16 years as an NBA player. 'They were a big inspiration for me. I want the kids to know they can do anything, provided they take care of themselves.'
This year's camp had 75 children, with 60 on the wait list. The camp cost each child $410. Dudley figures his cost outlay per kid is about $825. He has some sponsorship, pays the rest out of his own pocket and is 'trying to get some corporate help, so we can keep this going indefinitely.'
That would be a very good thing.
• Pete Sampras has retired from tennis, but some appearance money and the opportunity for a $250,000 winner-take-all prize apparently has lured him back, if just for one night.
According to Tennis Week, Sampras has given a verbal commitment to compete in the eight-man SuperSet exhibition at the Rose Garden on Nov. 22.
Also expected to play in the event, which will be taped and shown on CBS on Thanksgiving, are former No. 1 Lleyton Hewitt, now ranked 13th; Mark Philippoussis (eighth); James Blake (33rd); Jan-Michael Gambill (49th); and Todd Martin.
Australian promoter Stephen Duval is paying $500,000 in appearance money.
• Bill Schonely will soon meet with Blazer chiefs Steve Patterson and Erin Hubert, who are exploring the possibility of bringing the Schonz back to the organization in some capacity.
While they're at it, they need to have a tribute night for Schonely, who was abruptly shown the door by the previous administration without so much as a thank you for 30 years of service.
• Rob Ramsay, the Vancouver, Wash., native battling back from cancer, has pitched well for the Lake Elsinore Storm of the Class A California League. Ramsay, who underwent two surgeries as a result of a cancerous brain tumor, is pitching long relief for the San Diego Padres' farm club. In 24 appearances and 52 1/3 innings, he has a 2-0 record and 2.75 ERA, with 55 hits allowed, 15 walks and 38 strikeouts.
Ramsay, 29, pitched once for the Portland Beavers in May before being sent down after it was determined that he wasn't ready for Triple-A competition. He hasn't given up the goal of a return to the big leagues, where he pitched for Seattle in 2000 and '01.
nLook for talented Portland boxer Molly McConnell to turn pro and make her debut in October.
• If ESPN reporter George Smith looks familiar, it's because he worked for nearly four years in Portland, from 1989-92 for nine months as a general assignment reporter for The Oregonian, then for three years as a reporter with KATU (2).
Smith stayed in a news reporter-anchor role in New York and New Haven, Conn., after leaving Portland, then was hired as a sports weekend anchor for the NBC affiliate in Boston for three years. After two years working news in Houston, he signed on in May as ESPN's Chicago bureau reporter.
Smith's first assignment: Sammy Sosa and his corked bat.
'I had literally just driven in from New York and was doing my laundry in my new apartment when the phone rang,' Smith says. 'I jumped in a cab and flew to Wrigley Field.'
Smith now is on the Kobe Bryant beat, having flown three times to Denver to follow the case.
'The travel is a little tiring, but it's a great job and a great company, and just the right mix of sports and news,' says Smith, 38, who played basketball and ran track at Oberlin College. 'I absolutely love it.'
• Harry Hutt, deposed as the Blazers' senior vice president of marketing, has resurfaced as president of the Hutt Sports Group, a sports marketing company providing services to collegiate and pro sports clients. Hutt, who continues to live in Portland, recently announced a partnership with the Ohio Valley Conference and claims clientele such as the Coalition of Black Colleges and Universities, Just Sports weekly radio shows, Sports Impact Publishing and NFL Yearbook.
• Bob Gaillard, the Lewis & Clark College men's basketball coach, will join former NBA star Detlef Schrempf in the Philippines for a series of grass-roots clinics for all ages, Sept. 17-29. 'It's considered the No. 1 country in the world in enthusiasm for basketball,' Gaillard says. Schrempf's foundation received a grant, estimated at $70,000, from the U.S. State Department to undertake a basketball diplomacy program called 'Understanding the Game.'