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Fans of both sides save their worst for this week


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POSTED: Saturday, September 19, 2009

LAS VEGAS » Sports fans here have a choice tonight. The fights, or the fights. Mayweather-Marquez or Hawaii-UNLV.

The funny or not so funny thing is that the college football programs representing cities so dependent on hospitality are so hostile to each other. And we're not even talking about on the playing field. The past few times these schools have met at Sam Boyd Stadium haven't exactly been visitors' bureau moments. There's nearly as much action in the stands as between the sidelines.

IN 2003 it got so bad that a relative of a UH player was choked and carted off to jail for the night. He later won a financial settlement for the rough treatment. There are more beefs in the stands than at the prime rib buffet.

Why does the Vacation Bowl bring out the worst in some of the fans—of both teams?

My friend Paul Hirayama works at the California Hotel and Casino. He is from Hawaii and loves the Warriors. But he detests how some of his fellow UH fans act at the game.

“;How would you like it if a Fresno State guy, all dressed in red, ran around the Aloha Stadium concourse with a Fresno flag? Do you think it might start a fight? A Hawaii fan did that with a Hawaiian flag and wondered why he got hit,”; Hirayama says.

Nearly 10,000 people from Hawaii live in the Las Vegas area, and their pride in the Warriors is widely apparent. And this cadre is augmented by thousands more who pour in from the islands, California and everywhere else. For UH fans the Vegas trip is a favorite for obvious reasons.

Maybe some of the Hawaii rooters have to take out their gaming-loss frustrations by mixing it up in the stands. Maybe some of the Las Vegans are tired of hearing how this is actually another home game for the Warriors. Would we like it if people began referring to Hawaii as merely another county of California?

THERE'S ALSO a little matter of what some call UH running up the score in 2007. While the Warriors were making their run to the Sugar Bowl, they routed the Rebels 49-14. Was a gimpy Colt Brennan left in the game too long to pile it on? Nah, I don't think so; especially when a mid-major squad is trying to gain voters to climb the polls, undermanned losing teams need to get over it—like it or not (I hate it), score differential is a big part of the equation now.

That could come back to bite the Warriors tonight. You know how coaches use anything they can to motivate their players. In that same Sugar Bowl year, then-defensive coordinator Greg McMackin seemed to find a different UH-dissing national pundit every week to fire up his guys.

Another Hawaii transplant who roots for UH, Pali Li, says the UNLV fans still suffer from Colt Envy.

“;He was such a great player, one like they've never had going all the way back to Randall Cunningham,”; he says.

Don't talk that smack around Bobby Franklin. “;This is Rebel Country,”; shouts the casino floor supervisor at the Cal, even as the green-clad denizens of Warrior Nation fill up his blackjack tables.

“;They have a good team this year, so the UNLV fans are out in force, too,”; says Riley Wallace, the retired UH basketball coach now a host at the Cal. “;People here don't always care about Rebels football. But they do this year, and especially for this game.”;