The haka isn’t worth 15 yards every week
Rule 9, section 2: No player, substitute, coach or other person subject to the rules shall ... engage in such acts that provoke ill will ... any delayed, excessive, prolonged or choreographed act by which a player (or players) attempts to focus attention upon himself (or themselves). ...
-- NCAA Football, 2007 Rules and Interpretations
HAWAII should continue to do the haka, if it feels that strongly about it. If you feel that strongly about it, if the haka is that important to you, then do it. But then take the hit. And don't complain afterward. Everybody knew the rules going in (see above).
One of the reasons the haka first became a tradition in sports -- first in Aotearoa, New Zealand, before everyone under the sun thought it was cool and wanted to join in -- part of it was to honor the opponent.
Does anyone think UH is doing this to honor the opponent? Anyone? Really? Honestly? Do you get that feeling?
If anyone felt that that's what was happening -- that the haka was to honor the opponent, to honor the game, that it was truly an open-hearted sharing of culture -- there would be no controversy. None.
It would be celebrated by friend and "foe" alike. Guarantee.
But somehow, this is not the impression that people are getting.
Now, you can say it's the audience's fault for not understanding it, and that's fine. Maybe there's an element of that. But even those who are objecting are bending over backward to be "culturally sensitive."
And that's a two-way street. In the Culture of College Football, this stuff is 15 yards (again, see above, and yes, that's before the game, too), no matter where you're from.
By its very nature, the haka can be controversial.
Raise your hand if you think that isn't part of what June Jones likes about it. (Even in a year when everyone loves Hawaii, he's found an us-against-the-world.)
But it's not just opponents who get bent out of shape. An Associated Press report said at least one game official was uncomfortable enough about an Aloha Stadium performance that he brought it up to the WAC office.
There are some UH fans who would rather not see the home team getting into any of this.
I'd feel better about the claim that it isn't taunting if there haven't been occasional examples to the contrary (the cultural demonstration came with middle fingers at Alabama).
I'd feel better about the explanation that it's something the players want if there was not a noticeable number of guys who sit it out (and if Ian Sample hadn't told us that there was a growing number of guys who felt uncomfortable about the direction all of this is taking).
I'd feel better about the explanation that it is a spiritual, cultural thing if it wasn't being used to sell T-shirts or have a Web site. I'd feel better if a lot of marketing wasn't riding on whether the Hawaii players do it or not.
I'd feel better about the explanation that it's a tradition important to the fans, if ... well, I think you know where I would go on that one.
Dave Reardon reports that the guys are working on something new, something Hawaiian, something theirs. That would be wonderful, for many reasons. Hopefully, the least of which would be, no more yellow on the field.