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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 24, 2006

Pay-per-view's changed the way many watch UH football

By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer

Watching UH football games on pay-per-view at the Tanaka home in Kailua is a ritual of food and fun and none of the irritation of dealing with traffic, security searches and other hassles at Aloha Stadium. So what's to become of game attendance?

MARTHA HERNANDEZ | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Tomorrow, the specialty drink on the menu at the Tanaka home in Kailua will be a boilermaker "a beer and a shot."

Last Saturday featured an influx of Mexican food carnitas, chicken enchiladas, taco salad, Spanish rice, chili aguidilo, chili colorado and flan for dessert.

Two weeks ago, it was Ragin' Cajun Night, with neighbors bringing jambalaya, ribs, shrimp, crab cakes, pecan pie, dirty rice, gumbo and pretty much everything but the crawfish though not for lack of trying.

For the past three years, the "thing" for the 20-plus friends who gather at this 'Alihi Place home has been a themed party for every University of Hawai'i football opponent. Tomorrow, UH's opponent is the Purdue Boilermakers from West Lafayette, Ind. Last week, it was San Jose State. Two weeks ago, it was Louisiana Tech.

"It's great," said Dean Nowack, a former UH volleyball coach. "There's so much (food)."

Rubbing his stomach in the third quarter during the Louisiana Tech game, Rob Nelson said, "The second plate goes down pretty easy, but after that. ... "

This new wave of watching UH football games in the comfort of one's home via pay-per-view TV might be described as Warrior Lite. It tastes great, particularly the gourmet cuisine. But it's also less filling, especially at Aloha Stadium, where crowds have been disappointing turnstile count hasn't reached 30,000 in more than a year despite a team as successful and entertaining as any in UH history.

COMFORT, CONVENIENCE

In this Kailua neighborhood, families kicked in for the $285 pay-per-view fee before the season started, planning to watch all Warrior games live while avoiding the $40 a pop it costs to see the game in person.

There also is no ordeal before the game. Rain and humidity are forgotten in air-conditioned bliss. There are no traffic jams, parking issues or premium seating charges. Convoluted stadium regulations, security searches, unruly fans and cold hot dogs are a thing of the past.

From the comfort of their in-house seats, the pay-per-view fans have been enjoying a heaping helping of highlights. Blowouts UH has scored at least 60 points in four games and leads the nation in scoring might not provide drama, but when your team is winning, 60 points is a sight to behold.

"It's comfortable and we eat well, and there aren't any drunk people starting fights," Carol Tanaka says. "People drink here, but they walk home."

Those who drink here are more likely to sip Godiva martinis, mojitos and designer beer before walking home after the Warriors bash somebody.

Their love of the game and the Warriors has never been greater. Their love of Aloha Stadium leaves a lot to be desired. Watching the game in person has become the next-best thing to watching it in the air-conditioned comfort of your neighbor's home, with close friends and great grinds.

"As much as the players put into the game, they deserve to have people in the stands," says Mike Taylor, a regular at the Tanaka home. "But it's so easy here, so comfortable. The food is so good and I can walk around the corner and be home."

Compare that to what most go through to get to Halawa.

PRICES UP, CROWDS DOWN

The Tanakas faithfully trekked to tailgate at the stadium for years. But as their kids got older, volleyball and soccer started to squeeze their Saturdays. About the time pay-per-view came along three years ago, they found themselves heading straight from their kids' games to the stadium, barely able to pick up a Zip Pac and find parking.

Now they provide the site, which literally does not have a bad seat in the house, along with a 42-inch TV and, especially, AC.

There are still schedule conflicts. The Louisiana Tech game was the first Saturday they didn't have a volleyball match. One particularly hectic day, most of the neighborhood kids had "day games," so the two neighbors who could catch the start of the Warriors game got a key from the Tanakas and fired up the AC for the late-arriving crowd.

Nowack, the former UH volleyball coach, had season tickets for years, until his kids also got caught up in volleyball and soccer, and the cost of football tickets for four started to feel awfully steep. "Every time the prices went up, the crowds went down," Nowack said. "That's no coincidence."

Nelson has kid commitments as well, but his reason for giving up his tickets was more sentimental. "I quit going when my father-in-law died," he said. "It was our thing."

Luxury trappings have no impact on following football. These fans are faithful, down to predicting the moment Colt Brennan will lose his lunch.

They are living large in a season when the margin of victory has often been so big that something as crucial as having a Davone Bess touchdown called back is simply seen as a chance for a live "replay."

"That's OK," Bret Melson said, shrugging it off. "We'll just get to see it again now."

There is one tiny bit of guilt, however, as all those empty orange seats light up the Halawa night like the Warrior offense.

"I really feel crappy that they are playing this quality football before that kind of crowd," Taylor said. "What an entertaining team. I do feel a little bad and plan to go to a game or two before the end of the season, because I like to watch in person."

What? And give up all this luxury?

That's the dilemma Warrior fans face, in the era of pay-per-view.

Reach Ann Miller at amiller@honoluluadvertiser.com.