A Big, Mostly Happy Sports Week

Bob Hogue
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Wednesday - February 04, 2009
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This week is one of both great happiness and potentially great sadness here on Oahu.

First, the happiness - or what Will Smith likes to call the “pursuit of happyness.” On Tuesday night, Feb. 3, several former UH Warriors and NFL stars, including Davone Bess, will be on hand at The Willows for “An Evening with Colt Brennan.” It’s a night that honors the former record-breaking quarterback from the University of Hawaii (now with the Washington Redskins) with proceeds going to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It should be a happy night for all who attend.

On Wednesday morning, Feb. 4, future collegiate stars - and possibly a few future professional stars - will gather at Neal Blaisdell Center to sign their names to one of the most important documents they may ever have in front of them. It’s National Letter of Intent signing day, and Mayor Mufi Hannemann, in association with the Pacific Islands Athletic Alliance, has invited nearly all of Oahu’s standout high school athletes to an early-morning signing ceremony. While the happiness will be showcased by the smiles on all the young student-athletes faces, don’t be surprised if much of the media’s attention is heaped on Punahou’s all-everything football star Manti Te’o, who will finally decide among USC, UCLA and Notre Dame.

On Friday evening, Feb. 6, the happiness moves on to Hilton Hawaiian Village, where Chaminade University will hold its first-ever intercollegiate Athletics Gala. NFL Hall of Famer Anthony Munoz of the Cincinnati Bengals will be the keynote speaker in what promises to be a great event.

The high point of the night will be the induction of coaching great Merv Lopes as the first member of the Silversword Hall of Fame. Lopes, of course, was the coach of the legendary Chaminade team that beat top-ranked Virginia in December of 1982.

Former Honolulu Police Chief Lee Donahue is one of the chairmen of the event and says he’s excited about what it means for the entire sports community. “I’m a Chaminade graduate myself, and I recall vividly when we beat Virginia that night and what Coach Lopes meant to us,” he says. “This event is a chance to remember that and also to raise funds that will enhance Chaminade’s athletic facilities. That’s a victory not only for us but also for Saint Louis and the area high schools,” which often share the campus facilities.

With all this unabashed joy going on, it could be a bittersweet feeling at Aloha Stadium on Sunday, Feb. 8. That’s when the NFL Pro Bowl plays what could be its final game in Honolulu - maybe. Reports suggest that the NFL will be back here again perhaps as early as 2011, but other reports indicate that the league is ready to move on to other larger and more modern venues around the country.

That’s sad for us fans and, frankly, for the NFL all-stars and their families.

Hawaii’s fans and Hawaii’s economy have benefitted greatly from the Pro Bowl’s yearly presence here. Hundreds of thousands of fans have gone through the turn-stile at Aloha Stadium, and millions of dollars have been spent around the island when the fans pour onto Oahu each year.

Meanwhile, players attest to how much they enjoy coming here. Virtually unanimously, they will tell you that Hawaii is like no other place - a beautiful paradise where they can enjoy fun in the sun with their families. If the Pro Bowl moves to the site of the Super Bowl each year - and is played the one week prior to the big championship game - the goal of getting to Hawaii will be a distant memory.

My hope - and I would imagine the hope of thousands of local fans - is that the state pulls out all the stops in trying to keep the Pro Bowl in the Islands. If that means we can only get it every other year or every three years, then at least there’s still a future here.

If not at all, that’s a sad story indeed. I’ve got my fingers crossed. Hope you do, too.

The happiest news I could think of is a positive announcement from the NFL and the state of Hawaii at the end of a very busy sports week in Honolulu.

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