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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Saturday, December 25, 2004

Fans give Bowl thumbs-up

By Will Hoover
Advertiser Staff Writer

Two hours before the Hawai'i Warriors and the Alabama at Birmingham Blazers took the field for the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, the Christmas Eve versus Christmas Day rivalry was well under way in the parking lot surrounding Aloha Stadium.

Warrior fans dressed up a day earlier than usual for the Hawai'i Bowl, which was played this year on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

The winner: Christmas Eve.

Tailgaters sang the praises of the first-ever Christmas Eve game.

"Great idea," proclaimed Terrence Enanoria of Salt Lake, after he polished off one bottle of beer and popped open another. "They should do this every year."

Fans can thank the NFL, which scheduled a Christmas Day doubleheader, precipitating a move to Dec. 24 for the bowl. Attendance at the game was 38,322, officials said, compared with 25,551 last year.

Regardless of the reason, "Christmas Eve is better," echoed Darrell Avery. "There's less pressure on Christmas Eve as opposed to Christmas Day. I think a lot of people think you have to be at home on Christmas Day."

Warrior fans, bedecked in Santa caps, displayed their loyalty for their No. 1 team during yesterday's Hawai'i Bowl at Aloha Stadium.

Eugene Tanner • The Honolulu Advertiser

It lowers the guilt pressure, according to Avery. No need to dream up excuses to sneak out and take in the game.

Nathan Meyer of Mililani — who said he has attended virtually every UH football game since he was 2 — was even more emphatic.

"This is the best idea they've ever had," shouted Meyer, 25, who, with 10 friends, was tapping brews out of a keg of Heineken in the back of a Dodge van.

"It's gotta be Christmas Eve, because on Christmas Day you're opening up your presents. Also, you're not going to get drunk on Christmas Day. Christmas Eve's OK — you get drunk, the game ends early, and you've got time to go home and sleep it off."

Down the way, about 20 fans were celebrating beneath a military parachute stretched between four vehicles

"We're all Coast Guard, and we're all Southern — even these two over there, who are from southern Los Angeles," explained Jamie Berg, who hails from Louisiana.

"Can I tell you why Christmas Eve is a better day to have the game than Christmas Day? Because when you're in the military you don't have your momma, your granny, your brothers, sisters, aunties, uncles and cousins around you. Your co-workers become your family."

And what better way to celebrate with that family than by going to a football game where you can cheer no matter what's happening on the field?

"You're either cheering for your home team, or your cheering for the Southern team," she said. "You root for Hawai'i and they get a touchdown — that's OK. You root for Alabama and they get a touchdown — That's OK. We're going to be happy the whole game."

According to Jim Donovan, executive director of the Sheraton Hawai'i Bowl, having the game on Christmas Eve this year was "a perfect fit." The reasons?

Christmas Eve fell on a Friday, and many people got off work to attend the game.

In addition, the game got major media coverage, which it might have missed out on when faced with the sort of football competition it would encounter on a Christmas Day falling on a Saturday.

"You have an afternoon kickoff and still have prime-time coverage," said Donovan. "That's about as good as it gets."

Still, Christmas Day didn't give up without a fight. Donovan acknowledged his office had heard from fans who were outraged that this year's game wasn't going to be on Christmas.

One was tailgater Ron Tsuruda. For one thing, it upsets the tradition of having the game on Christmas Day, he said. For another, the viewing audience on Christmas Day would be larger than on Christmas Eve even without the competition.

People are working, shopping or partying on Christmas Eve, he said. "There's a lot of people who support UH that can't come to the game on Christmas Eve," said Tsuruda. "They did a disservice to fans — and a lot of people feel the same way."

Donovan was hesitant to declare Christmas Eve the winner for all time. It all depends on what day Christmas falls on, he explained. "For example, if Christmas falls on Thursday, a Christmas Eve Wednesday game might not be so popular with the fans," he said.

Reach Will Hoover at 525-8038 or at whoover@honoluluadvertiser.com.