Starting the day after the Super Bowl, O‘ahu comes to life
with football spirit in preparation for the big game. With all
the “hoopla” surrounding it, the Pro Bowl is always a huge economic
opportunity for many businesses on the island. With the arrival
of the players comes the arrival of many tourists intent on
a Pro Bowl “experience.” Pre-game action includes everything
from a “Beach Bowling Bash” outside of the Hilton Hawaiian Village,
to endless festivities at Fort DeRussy, to nightclub promotions
around Waikiki which gave fans the opportunity to mingle with
their favorite NFL super stars before the game. Now, when game-day
finally rolled around, I was ready for some football, but the
festivities had only just begun.
Every football fan knows going to the game isn’t the same without
a healthy session of tailgating first, and we were not about
to break such a hallowed tradition. So my roommates and I took
the necessary precautions only to find ourselves meager in our
efforts. We were surrounded by people who had taken tailgating
as we knew it and turned it into a bonafied art form. There
were grills galore, the unmistakable smells of barbequed meat
and mass beer consumption, stereos “bumping” loudly, state-of-the-art
lawn chairs with matching canopies, and the essential football
for a little “parking lot Pro Bowl” of their own. Becoming almost
a sport in its own right, we found that many tailgaters had
no intention of actually going into the stadium. The fact that
they made the trip just for the tailgating and were content
to just hear the game on a radio was a display of dedication
that should touch the hearts of football fans everywhere.
As game time approached, we wrapped up the tailgate and made
our way to the ticket booth. Luckily our tickets were at the
will call window, and we did not have to wait in the main ticket
lines which stretched all the way back to the parking lot.
Once inside, we trudged through masses of fans and vendors
on the way to our seats and were pleasantly surprised to be
sitting in the eighth row on the 20-yard line with the players’
families. I guess one could call it luck: it was one of those
“we knew a guy who knew a guy” type deals, and we weren’t complaining.
We were close enough to the field so that all the players on
the sidelines were up close, personal, and fully life-size.
We watched in awe as these freakishly talented athletes we’ve
spent so many Sundays worshipping and hating warmed up right
in front of us.
While the players headed for the locker rooms for final preparation,
an array of endless ceremonies began. First off was a ceremony
honoring five inductees to the NFL Hall of Fame, headlined by
former Raider’s superstar running back Marcus Allen. Then fireworks
were followed by a ceremonial fly-over by a team from the U.S.
Air Force. After that there was an amazing stunt performed by
a team of Navy Seals, who parachuted down to a spectacular landing
right onto the astro turf of Aloha Stadium. Two Seals even parachuted
in tandem only to separate at the last minute and land individually
for a little added excitement. All of the patriotic acts were
then warmly dedicated to the fallen members of the Columbia
space shuttle crash.
The NFL all-star mascot team was then introduced as its members
and paraded around the field on weird looking two-wheeled contraptions
that shot fireworks out of the back. Finally the players from
each team were announced, sending the fans into frenzied cheering
at the name of their NFL favorites.
Followed by yet more fireworks, the show then moved onto the
ceremonial singing of the Hawai‘i state anthem courtesy of native
Hawaiian recording artist Kapono. Then, close to 1,000 color
coordinated dancers rushed the field for a ceremonial performance
of our nation’s anthem sung by R&B recording artist Brandy.
During the Star Spangled Banner, another, once again “ceremonial,”
fly-over took place. This time it was by Challenger, the only
Bald Eagle ever to be trained for such acts, as he swooped down
into the stadium landing on his trainer’s arm. Next, captains
from each team were called to meet in the middle of the field
for the, you guessed it, the “ceremonial” coin toss. The coin
was flipped, anticipation grew high, and kick-off time was here
However, once the game started it unfortunately proved to take
second stage to everything else going on around it. In a flurry
of interceptions, field goal attempts, and bad defense, the
AFC (American Football Conference) jumped out to a 28-6 lead
over the NFC (National Football Conference). The uncompetitive
first half of the game seemed a little less interesting compared
to the teams of all-star cheerleaders rotating around the sidelines
and the hilarious battles between team mascots. Next to the
line of kids trying to get players autographs, was an even larger
line of middle-aged men drooling over the cheerleaders and begging
As the Pro Bowl half-time show started, the 1,000 dancers again
rushed the field and a stage was quickly erected at the 50-yard
line where singer/actress Jennifer Love Hewitt, on a moving
platform that elevated her above the main stage, performed a
song from her latest album.
The game soon resumed and the second half brought much of the
same luck for the NFC as they continued to be routed by an energized
AFC team that drove down the field with ease on every possession.
We decided to partake in “slightly” overpriced snacks from the
concession stand, because a football game wouldn’t be the same
without a good ol’ hot dog. Little did we know what we had gotten
ourselves into as we were handed unbelievable behemoths of a
hot dog. Two pounds of meat is one thing, but two pounds of
hot dog meat was almost too much to handle.
As the fourth quarter wound down, my roommates and I began
to reflect on the day’s happenings. Between the cheerleaders,
tailgating, and parachuting Navy Seals, we sometimes forgot
that there was even a game going on. It was an eventful day
to say the least, and as the game ended, one last ceremony took
place in the crowning of the game’s MVP, who turned out to be
Miami Dolphins running back, Ricky Williams, for his two-touchdown
These were just some of the things that made my first Pro Bowl
a truly “ceremonious occasion,” and hopefully it won’t be my
last. I never knew I could be so content watching so little
actual football at a football game, and I think I speak for
many when I say, bless the person who came up with the idea
of having a Pro Bowl cheerleading team. It’s sheer brilliance
in my book.