HAWAII'S 21st hosting of the AFC-NFC Pro Bowl is over and most of the players and NFL staff boarded planes to return to the mainland yesterday.
After such a memorable
week, Pro Bowl seems
likely to stay in Hawaii
What an event it was, with both Super Bowl quarterbacks actually showing up this time.
And when else do we see Aloha Stadium filled to the gills? Man, does that place sway when it's near capacity.
Walking from the press box across a bridge connecting sections of the stadium, media members were heard to remark that the surface seemed to be moving under their feet.
One more year before the NFL has an option as to where to locate the game. It would be crazy to move it out of such a marketable TV venue as Hawaii, but never credit the NFL with too much common sense.
I know I've never heard a player say he wished he was somewhere else. Heck, Shannon Sharpe came even though he was injured.
Never heard an NFL exec say he wished he was somewhere else either.
It was a memorable week, not just because of the big-time personalities who came to town, but also because the islanders got to see their own reflections in the NFL. Here are some of my fondest memories:
Seattle Seahawks tight end Itula Mili (Kahuku) entering the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall sucking on li hing mui as he ascended a stage to sign autographs for about 300 fans waiting in a queue at the Topps Card Show on Saturday.
Pittsburgh Steelers running back Chris Fuamatu-Ma'afala (St. Louis School) playing barefoot in the NFL Rookie Beach Bowl. All the other rookies wore Nike brand reef walkers. "I just couldn't wear those little booties they gave us," Fuamatu-Ma'afala said.
Atlanta Falcons' defensive tackle Esera Tuaolo, a Waimanalo native, sauntering out to midfield in an open aloha shirt at the Pro Bowl and proceeding to fill Halawa Valley with his powerful rendition of the National Anthem.
(Tuaolo, who has the same musical agent as Donny Osmond, sees life beyond football in a recording career. Those who heard him sing Sunday are convinced he'll get there in a big way.)
Tuaolo causing a stir among youngsters as he walked in on classes at Waimanalo Elementary, where he was once a student.
Arizona Cardinals running back Adrian Murrell working several hours with his former Leilehua High coach, Gary Clark, Fuamatu-Ma'afala and other NFL buddies at a clinic at windswept Cooke Field yesterday. (Clark was nominated by Murrell and chosen the NFL's National High School Coach of the Year).
Fuamatu-Ma'afala's grinning response when asked on ESPN what his motto to live by is: "Just kick back and eat."
Chicago Bears rookie Olin Kreutz's (St. Louis School) genuine excitement to meet Denver Broncos defensive end Maa Tanuvasa for the first time. The encounter came during a Pro Bowl party aboard the U.S.S. Missouri last Wednesday. Kreutz admitted he felt like a kid meeting one of his heroes. It was a nice moment.
On a darker note, I wonder if this could be the end of the Rookie Beach Bowl. Word is that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue is reviewing the event as Patriots running back Robert Edwards remains at Straub Hospital and Clinic with a potentially career-threatening knee injury suffered in the third annual game on Friday morning.
Pretty distressing to the league and infuriating to Patriots executives that fun in the sand could be so costly.
Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.