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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, February 3, 2006

The end game is near

By Michael Tsai
Advertiser Staff Writer

Dawn Urabe and her fiance, Marcus Meaney, both of Moanalua, are getting ready for Meaney's post-NFL-season depression. Meaney's off-season activities include planning his wedding in 2007.

REBECCA BREYER | Honolulu Advertiser

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The great void draws near. Marcus Meaney can feel it.

Meaney, as serious an NFL fan as there is in Hawai'i, is making the most of the last few days leading up to Super Bowl Sunday or, as it has also come to be known, the football fan's New Year's Eve.

"Super Bowl Sunday is the saddest day of the year," Meaney says.

No kidding. Come Monday, Meaney and others like him will wake from their five-month pigskin dream to the cold reality of No Pro Football Until September.

That's no more lost Sundays in front of the tube.

No Monday Night Football.

No Thursday Night Football.

No football highlights on SportsCenter.

Not counting the Pro Bowl and, frankly, who does? there will be very little after this weekend's season finale to prevent gridiron gluttons like Meaney from gasp going outside on Sundays.

"I guess I can go back to the beach or start golfing again," Meaney says without conviction. "I wouldn't call (the end of the season) life-altering, but it does leave a void in your life for a long, long time."

Meaney, a Moanalua resident, has been a diehard football fan ever since he watched the Chicago Bears trounce New England in Super Bowl XX.

"It was the first game I ever watched, and I never went away," he said.

He continues to root for the Bears "I follow them in insane detail," he says but his interest in the game isn't constrained by team loyalty.

An accountant by day, Meaney spends his off hours during the season crunching stats, monitoring injury lists, and poring over practice reports as a team owner in a half-dozen fantasy leagues. He figures he spends 15 to 20 hours a week (not including his Sunday viewing marathons) staying abreast of all things NFL.

"I pretty much know everything there is to know about every team," he says. "I have no life, to be honest."

That's not entirely true. Meaney is proud fiance to the lovingly indulgent Dawn Urabe. Their wedding is set for summer 2007, and Meaney intends to be an active participant in the planning just as soon as the season ends.

"That'll help pass the time," Meaney says.

Noted: The Meaney-Urabe union is scheduled for the NFL off season.

"That wasn't really a factor," Meaney insists. "But it is convenient."

Lifelong Green Bay Packers fan Pat Nelson isn't quite so invested in the game although he does own stock in the Packers but he too will touch the void when the season comes to a close.

"I don't watch a lot of other sports," Nelson says. "The NBA turned me off after the strike. I don't follow baseball that closely, although I'll watch the World Series."

Nelson, a Kalama Valley resident, rarely misses a Green Bay game during the season. If the game isn't televised, he'll head over to the nearby sports bar the Shack to catch it on satellite. Otherwise, he prefers to watch it from the safe (for others) comforts of home.

"My emotions run rampant," he says. "Even my wife stays away."

With the Packers packed away for the summer, Nelson says he'll probably spend his off-season weekends catching a few waves and working on his house.

Not that the house has been neglected this 4-12 season.

"When the Packers lose is when I do the most work around the house," Nelson says.

Travis Ichiki of Waipahu is just as passionate about his Super Bowl-bound Pittsburgh Steelers (he admits he's rescheduled a family dinner or two when the Steelers are playing on Monday night) but he sees no problem taking a break from football once the final whistle blows on Sunday.

"I'll play some softball and basketball, probably go to the beach," he says. "I'll be more productive. When the season is over, I can actually do stuff."

But for Ichiki to have a truly restful off season, the Steelers first have to make good on all those predictions of Super Bowl victory.

"It's not like I feel comfortable," Ichiki says. "When the media hypes a team, oftentimes they end up losing. No one is giving Seattle a chance."

Believe the hype. Don't believe the hype. Ichiki is sticking with his team. His prediction: Steelers 24, Seahawks 17.

Whatever the outcome, there is as fans of 31 also-rans will inevitably say always next season.

And Meaney, for one, will be ready.

Meantime, he says he'll continue to check his daily e-mail updates from the Bears, study scouting reports for the upcoming NFL draft, and later avail himself of the steady stream of information that flows from next season's training camps.

"I'll know exactly who's making catches, who's making blocks, whether a kicker can make a 44-yard field goal," Meaney says.

Yes, John Madden, there are spreadsheets in the void.

Reach Michael Tsai at mtsai@honoluluadvertiser.com.