Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023 |
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With some things, the indication of what existed in the past can be derived from what’s happening in the present.
As an example, I have been on the island just 10 months, and went into Saturday night’s Kaua’i Cowboys game with a relatively open mind. I’d been told by various voices that my expectations were too high, that the semi-pro Hawai’i Football League in which the Cowboys play is really nothing to see. But journalists are trained to look with their own eyes.
I did, and while it was clear that Kaua’i (1-0 HFL) has some talented football players on its roster, it’s just as clear that what I’d been told about the past was true: the Cowboys are a tough sell struggling for legitimacy.
And no matter what shows up on the field – talented or not – organization and procedure will always be nearly as important to success as wins and losses.
In that spirit, here’s a season-to-date rundown of your Kaua’i Cowboys.
Their actual home-opener was scheduled for May 12 against Kona Ikaika, but the boys from the Big Island couldn’t gather enough bodies to field a team: game canceled. The Cowboys’ next opportunity was to be May 19 on Maui against the Kihei Heat, but in the nick of time it was learned that War Memorial Stadium already had been claimed for the evening: game rescheduled for June 23.
While those are less-than-encouraging ways to open the season, Saturday may have been just as bad or worse. The Windward Hawks brought their 0-3 record and just 14 bodies to Vidinha Stadium. Kaua’i erupted with defensive intensity, turning the Hawks into bowling pins. Down they went, so that by halftime Windward coaches were begging to stop the game because the team had just 10 healthy bodies remaining.
It was inevitable. It appeared from the get-go as though the Hawks would have been just as happy to play two-hand-touch or flag football. It got to the point where I was cringing when Hawks quarterback Naeole Ahn shouted “Hike!” for fear of more calamity.
So, against his wishes, Kaua’i coach Al Ah Loo agreed to halt the game at halftime. “They said they just couldn’t continue, even with a running clock,” Ah Loo said. “It’s pretty frustrating.”
Recapping quickly, for the first three scheduled games of the season, Kaua’i has endured a cancellation, a rescheduling and a called game. Which leaves new team owner Rudy Bosma cringing.
But the organizational and procedural needs extend beyond the grass field.
If one hopes to pass a team or league off as legitimate, and charge $5 to attend games, then there ought to be programs handed out at the gate. Or rosters at least. Bringing a team to life means assisting the fans with identification of those on the field. I’ve been to Pop Warner games with shnazzy programs.
And it should be so easy to do, especially considering the Cowboys have a new owner and president.
At Waimea High School’s spring intra-squad scrimmage last Friday night, the $7 entry fee got attendees dinner and a clearly-marked roster. When the White team’s number 16 made a good play, most of the 1,000 at Hanapepe Stadium scanned their sheets in search of a name for the masked young man.
It also wouldn’t hurt to hire a guy on the cheap to handle statistics for the game. Fans like stats; it gets them interested and helps keep their attention. In the press box Saturday night sat an announcer and a timer. A stat man could be had for $25 a game, but he would deliver priceless legitimacy.
I could make more suggestions, but I’d best start slow.
Besides, there is good football out there. While the offense needs work, the Cowboys play defense with speed and determination. Defensive back Reid Pagtolingen is legit, as he showed with two interceptions – one for a touchdown. And there are others.
The Kaua’i roster also sports a couple of characters trying to get in touch with fans. Ah Loo, a 10-year Cowboys’ veteran, not only cares passionately for the team he’s kept afloat through the leanest of times, but also delivers a mean hit from his linebacker position. After administering one such blow in Saturday’s first quarter, Ah Loo thrust his arms out, pirouetted twice and fell to his knees while pointing to the stands. In the background the dazed victim of Ah Loo’s charge struggled to his feet.
“We all just love this game so much,” Ah Loo said. “We’re excited because now we start preparing for a game two weeks from now against the defending league champs, Na Kani Koa on Oahu.
“That will be our chance to show we’re for real, and I think we are.”
Time will tell.
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