Eileen Rapozo has football fever.
She has for some time now.
But it’s gotten worse since she learned she was The Garden Island’s Football Fever grand prize winner.
That’s a pretty good prize. We’re talking a trip for two to Las Vegas, which includes airfare, hotel and meals, and $500 cash — all for filling out the weekly online form and predicting the winners of 15 college and professional games.
The winner, each week over the 19 weeks of the contest, won $250. TGI remains one of the few daily newspapers in the U.S. to offer a weekly cash prize in a Football Fever contest.
Rapozo didn’t win a weekly prize. She did even better.
Her name, along with thousands of others who submitted online entries, was put into the final drawing to determine who got the big prize.
When TGI’s Averie Soto called to let Rapozo know the good news, she initially didn’t believe it.
“I didn’t think I would ever win,” the Kapaa woman said. “I had tried so many times.”
When her caller ID said it was TGI calling, she wondered what this was all about.
“Is this Eileen Rapozo?” Soto asked.
Yes, Rapozo answered, with some hesitation.
“Congratulations, you just won the Football Fever grand prize!” Soto said.
Rapozo, stunned, walked into the break room at Enterprise Rent-A-Car, where she works, and screamed.
Yup, she screamed.
“I won the football trip, I’m going to Vegas,” she shouted for all to hear.
It was a moment she still chuckles about.
“Oh my God, really! I couldn’t believe myself. It was so fantastic,” she said. “I ecstatic. I can’t wait.”
Football has long been part of Eileen’s life. Her son, Philip, is the head coach for Kapaa High School.
“My boys were always involved in football,” she said. “I always had football in my life from when my kids were young.”
Everybody has a favorite team, she added, and hers include the Dallas Cowboys and the San Francisco 49ers.
Today, the Tennessee Titans reign supreme for Eileen, but she said she tends to root for most teams to do well.
“I like them all, I like the Chiefs. I think they did a fantastic job this year,” she said.
Depending on teams she’s watching, Eileen can get pretty worked up, and there’s no shortage of emotion, with plenty of screaming and yelling and cheering.
“My husband says the whole neighborhood can hear me,” she said.
The Super Bowl is big for the Rapozos. One year, they set up a tent in their yard, roasted turkey and had legions of family and friends over.
“One side was for the Bengals and one side was for the 49ers,” Eileen said.
The 49ers pulled out a 20-16 win in that 1989 Super Bowl, considered a classic.
More recently, they’ve started watching the big game at their son’s home, where a big-screen TV is in the family room.
Eileen hasn’t settled yet on whether she’ll be cheering for the Rams or the Patriots on Sunday. She said for many, Pats QB Tom Brady is easy not to like, but she said you have to give him credit.
“A lot of people don’t like the Patriots, but you know what, give the guy a break,” Rapozo said. “He’s a fantastic quarterback.”
Luck, along with football fever, runs in the Rapozo family.
Eileen’s mother, Frances Carreira, won a trip for two to Vegas and $500 last year when her name was drawn in August from more than 1,000 ballots that were turned in for TGI’s popular Best of Kauai special section.
The 91-year-old said it was first time she’s won anything, and was excited when TGI called to tell her the good news.
Daughter Charlotte Rapozo joined her mom for the excursion that included airfare and a hotel stay. They went in mid-January. Eileen and sister Pat held some fundraisers — like selling smoked meat — to cover trip costs, and they went along, too, a few more of their ohana met them there, and they had a mini family reunion.
“It was a great time,” Eileen said, adding she and Pat landed terrific deals on their airfare, hotel and food.
For the 2016-17 football season, that same Charlotte Rapozo was a weekly winner early in the season in The Garden Island’s Football Fever campaign, won $250, and had her picture in the island’s daily paper.
In the final Football Fever drawing for the grand prize, Charlotte Rapozo won. She, too, screamed when she learned of her good fortune, and later took her mom to Vegas.
It was Charlotte’s first season participating in TGI’s Football Fever.
Charlotte’s son, Daniel, was a weekly winner, too, that season, and took home $250.
“We’ve been lucky, for sure,” Eileen Rapozo said.
In Vegas, Eileen enjoys the music and entertainment. She likes to play the slot machines, but every now and then she ventures over to the Wheel of Fortune and puts in $20. Win or lose, that’s it.
“I limit myself,” she said. “When it takes my money, I say, ‘You ain’t getting no more money from me.’”
Rapozo hopes to use her free trip to go to Vegas during the Academy of Country Music Awards. She’s a huge country music fan, and her bucket list includes seeing superstars Reba McEntire and/or Shania Twain perform.
About five years ago, courtesy of a surprise gift from her granddaughter Chantel, Rapozo got to see her favorite country musician, Alan Jackson, perform in Honolulu. She said in the past, she always played Alan Jackson music while driving to Koloa for hula.
“And she never forgot that,” Rapozo said. “So when she found out he was coming to Honolulu, she bought me a ticket.”
In case anyone wants to buy her tickets to other country performers, Rapozo likes Toby Keith and Garth Brooks, too.
“Garth Brooks is expensive,” she said, laughing. “But I wouldn’t mind seeing Garth Brooks.”
If he’s playing in Vegas, Football Fever might be the ticket to get her there.
Or someone from the Rapozo family.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or email@example.com.