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October 2005

`Iolani No Ka `Oi


I know I often mention the fact that I went to Iolani School in this column. I figure since my parents spent more money than they could afford to give me an education that I have parlayed into jokes in bars, I should give them written credit. This month I am writing proudly about the Iolani Raider football team. And by the way, it is Raiders, not Red Raiders. That’s Kahuku, which is very different. Kahuku fans have been known to throw garbage at the opposing team’s bus. Iolani fans are known to recycle the garbage and wash the opposing team’s bus.

A few weeks ago the Raiders made a trip to the Northwest to play the Capital Cougars of Olympia, a team ranked 6th in the state in a preseason poll. It took the Tacoma Dome scoreboard people a few minutes into the first quarter to realize that “Lolani” is a misspelling. The Hawaiian language can be tricky, even with press guides, rosters, programs, television graphics, banners and the big “I” on their helmets nearby.

I played for the Raiders way back when and am the proud recipient of two varsity football concussions. Well, one was on the field. The other was from giving a teammate a congratulatory head butt while forgetting I did not have my helmet on. I never said everyone at Iolani was smart. Back then we did not have a huge reputation for athletics. For instance our pool was three feet deep on one side. So a water polo game was half water polo, half pool party. In football we would battle Punahou for the one win. We couldn’t move the ball down the field but we could tell you the trajectories and force torque needed to get it there, factoring in wind resistance and gravitational force. That, my friends, is the first time my Iolani education has directly helped in a joke.

Back to the game. Capital was just outright huge. They had more 200 pounders than a Kona marlin fishing tournament. One kid weighed in at (and I’m not kidding or exaggerating) 320 pounds! You know how big kids get nicknames like “Tiny” because of the obvious humor. This kid’s nickname was “Subatomic Particle” (Thanks again, Iolani). According to the program, the Raiders had four players over 200 pounds. Problem is, one was the quarterback and I’m sure two were lying. When I played, the guide listed me as 180 pounds, which was only true when I was piggy-backing the kicker. So as our guys faced a team with seven players over 250 pounds and two players over 300, you can see the literal mountain they had to climb.

Capital ran the ball with the help of the Mac trucks with shoulder pads. At halftime it was Capital 24 – Iolani 7.

The Capital side had a lot of fans, cheerleaders, and a marching band. The Iolani side had 200 hundred Hawaii people and rally (or printed dish) towels. In the second half, Capital scored once again to take a 30-7 lead, but then things changed. In the fourth quarter the never-say-die Raider defense caused and recovered three fumbles in a row, including one on their own two yard line as Capital looked to put the game out of reach. Kiran Kepo’o is a tall, talented and cool quarterback who led his team back with poise and maturity. Mike Hirokawa, a 165 pound running back was a man possessed, weaving through the Cougar defense like the Roadrunner through a sea of 250 pound coyotes. He amassed close to 200 yards in total offense, including an 88 yard touchdown catch that had our side of the stands going crazy. I never realized how exhausting twirling a dish towel could be. They made so many good plays in the fourth I had to take twirling breathers. It’s scary to think that this same body used to play football, now I’m exhausted cheering it on.

It was so exciting that my voice was almost gone. I hadn’t done that much screaming since the time I saw a fruit bat in North Dakota. Apparently football cheering and scaredy cat girly screaming affects your voice the same way. By the way, it was funny to hear fans heckling the referees in pidgin, which they obviously did not understand.

Hawaii fan: “Eh, Lolo, you bakatare or what?”

Referee: “Yes, it’s third down.”

In the end there was not enough time and the final score stood at 30-27. The team received a huge amount of Aloha from the fans. It was an incredibly touching moment and a certain comedian had to pretend he was having allergies, which were causing the sniffling. We were all so proud of the kids. And not one helmetless congratulatory head butt. They’ve come a long way.

Mahalo to the team and coaching staff. You played with determination and confidence, you didn’t listen to the odds makers, and you carried yourselves with poise and class. Iolani No Ka Oi!

P.S. None of the players were wearing my old number. Maybe they retired it. Of course, that might be the concussions talking.

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