Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

Fans will go -- if
the spirit moves them

KIMO Ebenezer snoozed on the Barcalounger. He slept soundly, loudly, exhausted from the Christmas rush. Few people loved Christmas more than Kimo. He loved all of it -- the decorations, the presents, the parties. Family. He loved it all.

Kimo loved football, too. He was a huge football fan. But he was not going to the (insert sponsor's name here) Hawaii Bowl. Not after last year's game. No way. It was back to Christmas at home with his family. Even when Kimo's superfan friend, Rainbow Joe, tried every argument (Rainbow Joe never missed a game), Kimo would not be swayed.

"Brah," Kimo said, "hum-BUG!"

So Kimo Ebenezer was sleeping, waiting for Christmas to come, when he was startled awake by the crashing of chains and the bonging of bells and the thunder of Tongan war drums. "Ebenezer!" a voice said. And there, before him, right in Kimo's house, was a big, friendly looking, curly-haired man in a Hawaii Bowl shirt.

"Jim Donovan?" Kimo said.

"I am a spirit!" the spirit said. "I am here to show you the true meaning of football on Christmas."

Well, Kimo was kind of shook up by this, but since he was sure it was a dream, he decided to play it cool.

"Shoots, den," Kimo said.

And the ghost took him back in time. They saw the great Dick Tomey teams that never played in bowls. They saw Washington and Penn State and Alabama and SMU and Notre Dame. And then the Rainbows and Michigan State before a sellout crowd. Kimo saw himself watching the Holiday Bowl with a younger Rainbow Joe (who was so inspired he vowed to name his first grandson "Wags"). And Jeff Ulbrich with a trophy and a smile.

Then, last year's game. "Why do you torture me, Spirit?" Kimo asked.

So they went on to the present, with happy people tailgating in the parking lot. Two teams, throwing the ball up and down the field. What a show! And Hawaii players hooking up bowl gift Xboxes at halftime.

And they saw people at home, having regular Christmases without the bowl, and they were happy, too. They were happy because it was Christmas, singing, laughing, being together. They didn't seem to miss the game.

"It's time to see the future," the curly-haired ghost said.

With no bowl to play in, Hawaii players turned to video games.

Rainbow Joe sat alone in the dark, watching a flickering tape of the 1988 win over Iowa.

Kimo saw a television with nothing on it but the Blue-Gray Game, a dreary contest between all-stars from bad teams held in Alabama. And pro basketball, filled with walk-it-up, back-it-in one-on-one plays while eight other guys stood around and Bill Walton wailed.

Kimo was horrified.

"Is this how it is, Spirit? No football on Christmas? Tell me!" Kimo said.

And then he woke up again, with a start. The ghost was gone. There was sunshine pouring in the room. It was Christmas. He had a few hours, plenty of good seats were still available. Maybe he would go after all, Kimo thought. Maybe.

Even at ghostpoint, the sell wasn't a slam-dunk.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at


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