THe sign above Lenny Klompus' head during yesterday's press conference had silver stars on it and said "Fabulous."
Hula Bowl fabulous
And who is to argue?
ESPN says so.
ABC says so.
The NFL says so.
And with one fell swoop, with one bold stroke, the Hula Bowl is a big thing again.
Not that it wasn't always fun. There have been some top names and good headliners and clutch catches recently. But remember the days when the biggest stars, all the biggest stars, were at the Hula Bowl?
Then prospects were told that the Senior Bowl was the way to go. More scouts were there, they were told. That's the game the pros look at, the whispers went. And momentum shifted to the other all-star game.
The Hula Bowl was dying.
With yesterday's deal, it's back to No. 1.
The Hula Bowl now has the NFL's official stamp of approval. Coaches. Drills. Scouts. Exposure. All the pressure is off the pros in February. The season is over. All they have to do is evaluate, evaluate, evaluate.
And now they can personally look at, talk to, work with every top prospect on the board.
In the middle of Mainland winter, they can do this on Maui. Think they won't come?
The NFL loves it. Now they have their own all-star weekend and college scouting service in one.
If you want to play pro football, the Hula Bowl will again be the place to be. The pros will be there. The players will be there. It could be as big as the NFL Combine.
The players will come.
College stars will be crawling over each other to get to the Hula Bowl to be seen by the scouts and to hang out with their heroes. What college basketball player wouldn't like to spend the weekend at the NBA All-Star game? Participate in the slam dunk contest? Take on the best in the long range shoot out? That's what we've got here. "An all-star Hawaii weekend," Klompus said. A made for TV bonanza.
And that's what it's all about. Television is everything.
ABC likes it.
ESPN likes it.
The NFL is "excited."
It was a package made in heaven. A deal maker's dream.
"The next thing you know it evolved over the course of a couple months," said NFL senior VP of special events Jim Steeg, who floated the idea at Klompus in February.
A 56-year tradition is as alive as ever.
BUT WILL IT BE less collegiate? Yes. The American Football Coaches Association is still tied into the Hula Bowl. But the reason the Hula Bowl was losing stars to the Senior Bowl in the first place was because the other game was more pro-oriented. Because the other game could cater to the NFL.
These games are fun. But they're also meat markets. And the Hula Bowl just became the world's most spectacular deli.
"We like to say the Hula Bowl is a job interview," Klompus said.
And in an interview, the employer runs the show.
So the Hula Bowl will be a little more pro and a little less amateur.
But it's alive. And it's on television. And it's fabulous. The sign said so.
Kalani Simpson's column runs Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org