Pacific Northwest News
Warrior Sugar is Still Sweet
By Steve Kajihiro
Clement and Myra Mahiaioif Kapolei with Steve Kajihiro (right) in New Orleans.
Photo by Dave Kajihiro
Despite losing to the Georgia Bull Dogs in the 2008 All-State Sugar Bowl and a week later, the team’s head coach June Jones to SMU Mustangs, the Warriors’ sugar is still sweet.
I went to the 1992 Holiday Bowl in San Diego and this year’s All-State Sugar Bowl. I have said since 1992 that Hawai`i’s appearance in the Holiday Bowl was the best football game that I’ve ever been to. But this year, that best game has changed to the Sugar Bowl. Yes, I know Hawai`i lost that game, but they won a lot more than any team could win.
Let us never forget everything coach June Jones and this year’s football team have done for the University of Hawai`i football program and the state of Hawai`i. They not only went 12-0 in the regular season and won the hearts of the state of Hawai`i, they gave us the experience of being at a BCS Bowl game, and the opportunity to spread the Aloha spirit to the rest of the world. For some of us on the mainland, the game also gave us a chance to reunite with family and friends from Hawai`i, which is simply priceless.
This year, Hawai`i fans from all over the world embraced the Warriors like I’ve never seen before. Fans by the thousands stood in line waiting for autographs and paid thousands of dollars to support their team in the biggest game in school history. Many endured delayed flights, lost baggage, and numerous flight connections before reaching New Orleans. Warrior fans Clement Mahiai and his wife Myra of Kapolei, Hawai`i, flew out of Honolulu on the red eye flight on December 30th and arrived in New Orleans at about 5pm on December 31st, just in time for the Warrior Bash. They attended the game on Jan 1st and returned to Hawai`i on Jan 2nd. They never thought twice about spending thousands of dollars to be in New Orleans for only a day and half; they just wanted to be there to support their team.
The days prior to the game, I joined my family from Hawai`i including my brother Dave Kajihiro and his group from the Honolulu Police Department’s Human Resources Division, for a tour of New Orleans and the famous French Quarter.
Walking around the French Quarter there were a good amount of Hawai`i fans wearing their Warrior colors, green and white Marti Gras beads, and proudly waving ti leaves. The team hotel was located at the New Orleans Marriot, where hundreds of Hawai`i fans would hang out for a chance to see their favorite player or just to show their support. Several Bourbon Street bars were transformed into Warrior Central, which was an awesome sight to see. By New Year’s Eve, Hawai`i’s Sugar Bowl merchandise was hard to find, especially, if you were XL or above.
For those of you who did not make the trip, I have to tell you it was an experience of a lifetime.
One of the most unforgettable moments of the game, came at the end. After the crushing loss and the game ended, the Hawai`i fans gave the team a standing ovation with loud cheers of Warriors!! Warriors!! Warriors!! Then the band started to play, prompting the fans and the team to sing, Hawai`i Pono`i, while the Georgia fans remained respectfully quiet. That was a very touching moment which allow us all to come together to show the nation what Hawai`i is all about.
Ah…did I forget the Ha’a? Yes, as confetti was shot in the air, announcing Georgia the winners of the Sugar Bowl, the Warrior performed the Ha’a on the opposite end of the field, for the last time this season, with the roar of the Hawai`i fans cheering them on.
So, let us not forget what Coach Jones and this year’s Warriors taught us: that by sticking together as `ohana and believing, anything is possible.
Even with the departure of Coach June Jones and the hiring of the new head coach, Greg McMackin, let us never stop believing in the Warriors because anything is possible if we all believe.
Thank you, Coach Jones and good luck at SMU.
Steve Kajihiro is a 1989 graduate of Aiea High School and an alumnus of the University of Hawai’i. Steve is also the owner and photographer for JAMK Photography in Everett, Washington.
Ellie (5) and Maggie (9) Seida try on their snorkeling gear at SeaTac Airport in Washington on a cold, winter day while waiting to get on their early morning flight to Hawai`i. Maggie said, "The last time I went there I was four years old and remember geckos in the coffee pot every morning." This time she and her sister will remember the fish.
Photo by NWHIT
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