' ' Cinema Romantico: A Digression: `Onipa`a. (Stand Firm).

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

A Digression: `Onipa`a. (Stand Firm).

There are only a few things in my life I care about more than college football. I can offer up just about any useless fact you require regarding the sport. And no, I don't care what you think. It's who I am and I'm fine with it. In the words of Chuck Klosterman, "College football almost always makes me happy." Almost is the key word in that phrase, because watching poor Hawaii University get supremely whacked by the University of Georgia last night in the Sugar Bowl saddened me a whole lot.

Perhaps for a college football novice it's difficult to comprehend the absurdity of Hawaii University playing in the Sugar Bowl. To put this into perspective we'll say that Hawaii getting to the Sugar Bowl is quite similar to man setting foot on mars - not the moon, but mars. It's like yours truly scoring a date with everyone's favorite Aussie (i.e. Kylie Minogue) and then her agreeing to go out on a second date. For the fans of that crummy organization known as the NFL it's like the Arena Football League's Colorado Crush playing in the Super Bowl.

A mere ten years ago Hawaii had lost 18 consecutive games and was about to disband its football program. The payout provided by the Sugar Bowl equaled the team's entire football budget. Hawaii's funds used for recruiting of players is a measly $50,000 - or, to say it another way, Georgia probably gives that much away in illegal cash to every recruit. A few days ago I read the Hawaii coaches didn't even have the luxury of camera equipment compatible with DVD players for watching game film until LAST YEAR! (The article also said the coaches offices have the same carpet from the 70's). The odds of them going undefeated (which they did) and get to one of the four major bowl games that have been around since the 1930's (which, as I've already said, they did) were astronomical. But there they were. The team from the islands whose games typically don't end until 4 AM on the east coast that usually provokes non die-hard college football fans to say, "Hawaii has a football team?" was playing on frickin' New Year's Day - the sport's nirvana.

Outside of every single contest my beloved Nebraska Cornhuskers have ever played in never before have I so desperately wanted a team to win a game. I believed Hawaii could stun the world, but deep down inside I also feared the same thing many "experts" suspected - that Hawaii was not even near the same class as Georgia. And last night my worst fear was confirmed. Georgia throttled them by a score of 41-10, and - as the saying goes - it wasn't that close. No argument about it. Hawaii did not belong on the same field.

But that's not right. Perhaps talent-wise they did not belong on the same field but last evening's Sugar Bowl was not simply about talent. It was about something else. And it's why the score didn't mean (pardon my language) shit. This team stood for something else. Have you ever told someone about a dream you have only to have that person laugh in your face? Hawaii stood for those of us who have been laughed at. Really, it's like a movie. A coach who in 2001 got in a car crash so terrible the paramedics who arrived on the scene thought he was dead and the man who performed surgery on him said his life was saved only because of "divine intervention". A QB who ran afoul of the law several years back, admit it, grew from it, and chose against entering the NFL draft early for a multi-million dollar contract because - as he said - "I like the person I'm becoming in Hawaii."

(Question: Why should Hawaii QB Colt Brennan have won the Heisman Trophy over Florida QB Tim Tebow? Answer: Colt Brennan's athletic department couldn't afford soap for the showers and Tim Tebow had to "put up" with things like this.)

This movie didn't have the storybook end and that's okay. Not all movies do. Being on that field was accomplishment enough, and if it's a cliche it's also the truth. I got chills as I read this morning that as the Hawaii football team departed the field last night their 14,000 fans that made the ludicrously long and enormously expensive trip gave them a standing ovation. Think about that. In a sports world where teams are consistently booed not just when they lose but when they're ahead or even on occassion when they've won the game (see: Chicago Bears fans after they beat the Kansas City Chiefs this year) the Hawaii fans - in spite of their team's horrific walloping - applauded their players' effort. They didn't finish undefeated, they didn't win a national championship and they couldn't really even make a game of it against one of the sport's "big boys" but, hey, it's all relative and to Hawaii just playing last night was a bigger accomplishment than all three of those things put together. The score does not in any way diminish what they did in 2007 and I hope they don't let any cynics or pedantic sportswriters or know-it-alls or jackasses who think they're funny tell them otherwise.

'Onipa'a, Hawaii. And congratulations on a wonderful season from one idiot blogger who loves the game you play a little too much.

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