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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, August 17, 1999


Can Honolulu support
a pro franchise?

DO you think this city needs an indoor pro football team? The Hawaii Hammerheads could win a league championship this weekend in Texas, but I'm just wondering how many will care.

Winning is supposed to be the criteria for fan interest in Hawaii, as anywhere. Fans usually come out to watch a winner.

Certainly that happens with Wahine volleyball, and it happened when the Rainbow men's basketball team was flirting with the national polls in 1997-98. It also happened when Bob Wagner took his football team to the Holiday Bowl.

But winning hasn't helped the Hammerheads, even though they are a Cinderella story with a cast of familiar local football names (Guy Benjamin, Eddie Klaneski, Gary Ellison, Chris Paogofie, Niko Vitale).

Hawaii has never been able to make a long-term commitment to a pro team.

Even the popular Islanders had to move out eventually.

There is every argument against having a pro franchise in Hawaii. Distance from the mainland, the high cost of living in the 50th State, the weather, the scarcity of corporate money. You can name more reasons.

MAYBE the best argument in favor of a club like the Hammerheads is that it provides an off-season fix for football fanatics in a football-mad state.

Another argument for the current franchise is that it cultivates the "Hawaii vs. the mainland" angle. With a roster dominated by locally born players, the local pride factor is clear.

And there's no question that indoor football is exciting. It's rock 'em, sock 'em action that moves along a lot faster than a regular football game.

Call it a rumble in a shoebox, if you will.

The commissioner of the Indoor Professional Football League, Mike Storen, has said that he thinks Hawaii could have the most successful franchise in the league if ownership here would get its act together.

He said the team should have had a full-time sales staff and public relations staff.

In short, he said the Hammerheads just did not market themselves very well.

Storen, who founded the Indiana Pacers and was commissioner of the old ABA before it merged with the NBA, speaks from considerable background.

BUT besides attendance, there are other serious problems that must be addressed. Game officials who cannot prevent brawling on the field and recurring hostilities between fans and visiting players are two of the most serious.

The rowdiness of local fans at the Blaisdell Arena and their treatment of visiting teams forced Hawaii's ownership and coaches to do a lot of apologizing this season. Racial slurs were hurled at visitors from the Colorado and Louisiana franchises, and, according to Mississippi coach John Fourcade, objects as large as a whiskey bottle were thrown last weekend.

The use of high school officials, who had to crash-learn IPFL rules this season, was not a good idea. The league should've cared enough to send an experienced crew here for the playoff.

Also, it would be better for the Hammerheads to move into an arena like the Stan Sheriff Center where the dimensions of the enclosed playing surface could be better accommodated.

But can indoor football even make it here?

Let me know what you think by writing me at pbigold@starbulletin.com.

Finally, I was going to comment on the Hula Bowl's change of title sponsors from Hooters to Rivals.com, but my learned colleagues beat me to it.

Lenny and Marcia Klompus once again prove their resourcefulness in an economy that sinks many other event organizers.

'Nuf said.

The Hooters Hula Bowl is now but a mammary.



Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.



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