Wayne’s World comes home
DETROIT » Even amid the throngs of fans, hordes of reporters and multitudes of league officials and volunteers surrounding Super Bowl week, it's easy to spot "Super Bowl Wayne."
He's also known as Wayne Lavelle, sports director for KORL (690-AM) radio in Honolulu. With broadcast partner Johnny Miro firmly planted in Honolulu, Lavelle has been doing his part for the show live from Super Bowl venues throughout the Detroit area this week.
Lavelle is easily spotted in his aloha shirt, handing out boxes of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and Hawaii-themed calendars to anyone and everyone.
Among his most prominent interview subjects are the players with Hawaii ties: Pittsburgh's Kimo von Oelhoffen and Chris Kemoe'atu, and Seattle's Itula Mili and Wayne Hunter.
This week, he also interviewed Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm about agriculture initiatives in both states.
"She says that I make a great ambassador for Hawaii," Lavelle said. "I like being the ambassador, I like spreading the aloha."
Even the local media caught on. A story in The Detroit News dubbed him a "one-man Hawaii tourism commission."
Although he had attended or covered 28 Super Bowls before this one, the return to the Motor City was especially heartwarming for the 60-year-old Lavelle. He was born in nearby Highland Park, about 6 miles from Ford Field, and raised in neighboring Wayne.
He left Michigan 45 years ago and moved around before settling in Hawaii 20 years ago.
"This is truly Super Bowl Wayne's homecoming," he said.
Kimo update: Molokai native von Oelhoffen, a Pittsburgh defensive end, is wearing a splint on his left thumb, the result of an injury he suffered against Denver in the AFC Championship game two weeks ago.
Von Oelhoffen said he suffered "minor" tendon damage, but added that it will not affect him come kickoff tomorrow.
As far as how preparation for the game is going at Kimo's Sports Deli in Kennewick, Wash., von Oelhoffen says "everyone's getting a little excited."
Von Oelhoffen owns the eponymous restaurant in the heart of Seahawks country, but says staff members are putting up some black and gold for this weekend's crowd.
"I know Sunday's supposed to be pretty wild," he said. "They're going to try to do something for all the Steelers fans that are coming in."
Coming your way: A dozen players in tomorrow's Super Bowl are also expected to be in Hawaii next week for the Pro Bowl.
Members from the AFC champion Steelers headed to Honolulu are offensive linemen Alan Faneca and Jeff Hartings, defensive lineman Casey Hampton, linebacker Joey Porter and safety Troy Polamalu.
Representing the NFC champion Seahawks are: offensive linemen Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson and Robbie Tobeck, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, running back and NFL most valuable player Shaun Alexander, fullback Mack Strong and linebacker Lofa Tatupu.
One player who won't be on the field -- despite a mock offer from an NFL spokesman at one of the numerous news conferences during Super Bowl week -- is recent Hall of Fame inductee Barry Sanders.
The former Detroit Lions running back played in 10 Pro Bowls in his career, and recalled the feelings of camaraderie developed during the week of the game seemed to disappear come kickoff.
"A lot of it during the week is usually talking about, 'Well. I'm going to take it easy,' " Sanders said. "Then the game starts and you realize it's all out war, because anytime you get guys of that caliber together and the whistle blows then it's only natural to do what you do best."
Talking the talk: Although he wasn't about to provide the Steelers with any bulletin board material, Hunter, Seattle's backup offensive lineman, had no problem with teammate Jerramy Stevens doing so.
"I like it," the former University of Hawaii and Radford High standout said this week.
Stevens essentially said the Seahawks would win the game, by saying Steelers running back Jerome Bettis' Detroit homecoming in the Super Bowl would be "a sad day when he leaves without that trophy." The comment prompted a pointed response from Porter, and the war of words seemed to escalate from there.
"There's nothing wrong with talking a little smack to each other," Hunter said. "It kind of makes things more exciting.
"I got kind of sick of everything being all nice-nice, you know, all this, 'They're a good team, we're a good team.' People know that that's why we made it this far."
The Rock: Two-time All-Pro Rockne Freitas, who played 12 seasons for the Lions from 1966 through 1977, is still remembered well in Detroit. Freitas, now chancellor at Hilo Community College, had plans to return for Super Bowl XL.
"But my son's team didn't make it," he said.
Makoa Freitas is an offensive lineman for the Indianapolis Colts.
The naked truth: Kemoe'atu was caught a little off guard on media day. The Kahuku product didn't expect to get interviewed at all, and when he did, there were some interesting questions.
"Have you ever been interviewed naked -- someone asked me that," the 6-foot-3, 344-pounder said. "I thought that was one of the weirdest questions."
The Star-Bulletin's Dave Reardon contributed to this report