Kalani Simpson


By Kalani Simpson

Major fun at the lowest
level of the minor leagues

There may be nearly as many ads on the walls as there are people in the stands, and maybe Kurt Warner, the slinging stock boy, is nowhere to be found, and maybe the Hawaiian Islanders aren't winning. And so, yes, let's face it, arenafootball2 is a minor league of a minor league, but there's something even more important we shouldn't lose sight of:

They sell beer.

Maybe we've been looking at these Islanders all wrong. Why should we build them up as professionals, or sneer at them if they're not? It turns out that's not the point. These guys aren't pros, not at $200 a game. But take another look.

This is the "Bull Durham" of football.

"I feel like those baseball teams in the '30s, those barnstormers," says backup quarterback Jared Flint, late of UH. "Little Rock, Wichita. It's fun."

It is. There's a goofy mascot, a handful of fans, an announcer who forgets the players' names in the middle of pregame introductions. This is not the NFL, but if you're in the right mood, if you know that going in, if you know what to look for, it's even better.

It's fun.

This is not to downgrade the effort or disregard the passion or downplay the hitting out there. These guys mean business. These guys are playing tackle.

But nobody is "living a dream" out there. This isn't a dream. It's another chance to play football, because they want to, because they love it, and that's a great and powerful thing. They'd have to be crazy to go out there again at their ages, and they do, and they are, and that's half the fun.

"It's just wild, you know," says Islanders offensive specialist Darrell Jones.

You get a quarterback who grooves to James Brown after a touchdown pass and a coach who jumps up on the sideline wall in celebration and fans who tumble down an aisle stairway head first after a loose ball in the crowd.

You get a 45-yard bomb that bounces off the screen in the back of the end-zone screen as the halftime buzzer sounds and into Jones' waiting arms.

Touchdown. It's good. It counts.

"We had called it up, right," begins Jones before you laughingly call him a liar.

"I just told Darnell (Arceneaux), throw it off the net," Jones protests, and calls in his coach to confirm. "Nobody expected it." Nobody did.

It's good that these guys can play football. It's good that these ladies can still be cheerleaders. (Who needs eardrums, anyway?) It's good that they actually identify a guy on the official roster as Josh "Zeus" White.

It's good that this is the only place left in America where you can hear "Push It" by Salt N Pepa and "Bust a Move" by whoever the hell that was.

The minor leagues are a great night out.

Only here could a guy from Morningside College (bonus points if you know what state Morningside College is in) go coast to coast. Twice.

After a kickoff, guys in the crowd can yell "It hit the ceiling!" And before every down the chain gang sets the markers down and scurries away. And at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the team sponsors a "touchdown dance contest."

It's road trips to nowhere and Gusto the Gecko and Star Market Field, and kids crashing into the padded walls after the game. But Islanders defensive coach Doug Semones still goes into conniptions on the field and the hits still hurt and the losses do too.

But the smiles come easily. There are foam gecko hands to wave and games to play. And walls to jump over. And music to dance to. And goofy contests and goofier rules.

This isn't the big time and these aren't the pros. This is the "Bull Durham" of football, with guys starting out and guys hanging on and guys playing simply because, by this twist of fate, for another minute, they still can.

They're having fun with this. The minor leagues are like that, if you know where to look.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at

E-mail to Sports Editor

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2002 Honolulu Star-Bulletin