Friendly competition


POSTED: Thursday, December 25, 2008

Navy Chief Warrant Officer 3rd Class Chris Lehner was talking about his lifelong love for the storied Notre Dame team, eliciting boos from nearby Hawaii fans. His 24-year-old son was among the louder hecklers.


;[Preview] Thousands Pack Stadium For Sheraton Bowl Game

UH Warrior fans and Notre Dame fans pack the stadium as both teams go head to head in the 2009 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.


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  “;I guess we're kinda split down the middle,”; Lehner said, pointing to the University of Hawaii and Notre Dame flags flying at their tailgate party.


“;It's always been like that. It's all in fun.”;

Lehner was among a number of dedicated Notre Dame fans eager to greet their heroes while tailgating at Aloha Stadium for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl yesterday.

Lehner is from Niles, Mich., not too far from the South Bend, Ind., school. The 43-year-old Honolulu resident saw his first and last Notre Dame game when he was 9.

“;My brother-in-law and sister get to go every weekend, and I never get to go,”; Lehner said. “;For them to be playing here in Hawaii is a dream come true. To be able to hear the Notre Dame fight song in person will send shivers. They've brought everything but the snow.”;

Tens of thousands held tailgate parties at the stadium.

Although game day plus last-minute Christmas shopping choked traffic, police said there were no accidents reported and the flow was relatively smooth.

Kailua resident Brian Ashford, 28, also sported the Fighting Irish green. His Wisconsin-born father raised him on Notre Dame football. The team was the theme for Ashford's fourth-birthday party.

So for him, finally seeing his lifelong favorite team play against his second favorite team, the Warriors, was an early Christmas present.

“;Notre Dame hasn't been doing too well this year,”; Ashford said. “;But the fact that they came out to where I live to play a bowl game, I couldn't ask for anything better.”;

Ashford said he was hoping for a close, hard-fought game with Notre Dame edging out on top. But he added, “;I like see Hawaii do well, too.”;

Although the UH record didn't hold a candle to last year's dream season, Hawaii fans like Warrior dad Guy Galdeira weren't disheartened. His son, defensive back Guyton Galdeira, is a senior and was hoping to end the season with a win.

“;It is what it is,”; Galdeira said of the season before the game began. “;But today is an outstanding way to end the season.”;

Win or lose, Lehner's son Nate was looking forward to a bowl game with his favorite team.

“;We won some games, we lost some, but we had some really good games,”; the younger Lehner said. “;It works out, keeps everybody coming out, so that's all that matters, right?”;