Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, December 25, 1997

Aloha Bowls past
epitomize spirit of game

THE Aloha Bowl celebrates its 16th anniversary today when the Washington Huskies meet the Michigan State Spartans. Officials of the Christmas Day game hope it will be a sweet 16.

It stands a good chance.

Both are Top 25 teams, with the Spartans of the Big Ten coming off a rousing victory over Penn State. The Huskies, preseason favorites to win the Pac-10, are trying to salvage a disappointing year.

For sure, though, it'll be a competitive game.

That has been the trademark of the Aloha Bowl since its inception in 1982, when the Huskies edged Maryland, 21-20. Until then, local fans hadn't seen a postseason football game played so intensely.

It was something completely different from seeing collegians playing in the Hula Bowl with its all-star format. The same for the Pro Bowl -- starting in 1980 -- with National Football League superstars in cameo roles.

Those games had a relaxed atmosphere with a lot of good-natured ribbing between plays.

OH, things got a bit serious in the fourth quarter when several minutes of exertion meant the difference between winning and losing. And in the case of the Pro Bowl, it was a $10,000 difference.

So imagine the surprise of the fans who saw Aloha Bowl I. They were impressed with the guys who were playing hard to win for their school, not for any conference, or any generic East or West all-star team.

That's what the Aloha Bowl brings to the local football table.

The Pro Bowl might wind up in Orlando, Fla., one year. And the Hula Bowl, which is trying to resurrect itself with a new venue on Maui, might not survive into the next millennium.

But the Aloha Bowl's a keeper and in need of support by fans who want to see competitive postseason football. It's a great Christmas Day package for Hawaii's football fans.

HAVING watched the previous 15 Aloha Bowls, here's my Top 10 (11 if you count a tie) in terms of excitement and significance.

1. Aloha Bowl I. The inaugural, of course, brought to you by Mackay Yanagisawa, who also founded the Hula Bowl. Washington edged Maryland, passing for the winning touchdown on the last play as the Husky cheerleaders went wild with their "Tequila" routine. And the Terrapins had a pretty fair QB in Boomer Esiason.

2. Aloha Bowl XII. Colorado beat Fresno State in a record-setting offensive show, 41-30, as Bulldog QB Trent Dilfer had a hand in seven individual marks. Pittsburgh Steelers QB Kordell Stewart is doing what he did for the Buffaloes.

3. Aloha Bowl XV. More records as Navy beat California, 42-38, using Paul Johnson's offense familiar to University of Hawaii fans.

4. Aloha Bowl III. SMU spoiled Notre Dame's first appearance in Hawaii with a 27-20 victory. Irish QB Steve Beuerlein missed an open receiver in the end zone on a fourth-down pass in the final seconds of the game, proving he's no Joe Montana.

5. Aloha Bowl VI. A game any Dallas Cowboys fan would love: Troy Aikman leading UCLA to a 20-16 victory over Florida and Emmitt Smith.

6. Aloha Bowl XIV. Kansas and UCLA combined to score a record 81 points with the Jayhawks, led by defensive standout Dana Stubblefield, prevailing, 51-30.

7. Aloha Bowl VIII. The only sellout, UH's first-ever postseason appearance turned out to be a bummer as Michigan State embarrassed the stumbling Rainbows, 33-13.

8. Aloha Bowl X. Georgia Tech scored in the final seconds to beat Stanford, 18-17.

9. Aloha Bowl II and IV (tie). Penn State and Alabama, respectively, win in their first and only appearances in Hawaii.

10. Aloha Bowl XI. Kansas 23, BYU 20. Hey, any BYU loss has to rank up there.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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