Jan. 27, 2011GUTIERREZ ARCHIVERAIDERS PAGE RAIDERS VIDEO49ERS PAGE 49ERS VIDEOEXCLUSIVE: 1-ON-1 WITH NNAMDI ASOMUGHAPaul Gutierrez
KAPOLEI, Hawaii -- Aloha, boss,
It took all of about five minutes to realize the hunger Hawaii still has for the NFL, even after being abandoned by it last year. Walking through the Honolulu airport to pick up my luggage, I was inundated with signs welcoming the Pro Bowl back to Oahu.
Driving the rental car to my hotel, I noticed Pro Bowl banners plastered all over Waikiki Beach and adorning every other building on the main drag. Part of me expected to see a helmet atop the statue of surf legend Duke Kahanamoku.
Did I mention how eager Hawaii is to play host to the NFLs all-star game?
Football players are literally walking the streets here. Driving in, I swear I saw Jevon Kearse in a crosswalk. I wanted to yell, Freak! But Tim Lincecum might have popped out and started singing some Hall and Oates, ya dig?
Anywho, it was pretty cool waking up and seeing the sun creep up over Diamond Head, then seeing the Pro Bowlers practice on a high school football field in West Oahu, while school was still in session. Fans parked all over the roads shoulder and they could get no closer than 50 yards or so ... to the buses. Still, they yelled and screamed for autographs. No way could they even see the shorts-and-helmets practices or hear the banter, such as when Ray Lewis protested, as only he can, about the length of practice. As a member of the media, I was able to stand on the sideline. Ill be sure to send in some Flipvids. Cool stuff, methinks.
Tee time, Lewis yelled at Bill Belichick. Dont we have a tee time to get to?
Well, Coach Hoodie, who has seemingly cut the hoodies (as well as the sleeves) off his favorite garments, actually showed some personality.
Youre not going back to (John) Harbaugh and telling him were not working on special teams, Belichick said of the Baltimore coach. How long are special teams meetings with him?
OK, cue up the Beli-cheat should just secretly videotape the Ravens special teams practices jokes. And get a chuckle out of DeAngelo Hall accidentally kicking an NFL Films camera, which was on the ground. LOL at a piece of the camera, which costs thousands of dollars, flying off and Hall simply pointing at his own shin, as if it was all the cameras fault. Then there was poor Roman Harper, who took the practice field with his jersey on backwards.
Well, you know what happened after that. I went to the team hotel, the ridiculously posh Ihilani Resort and Spa, and caught up poolside with Nnamdi Asomugha, who seemed genuinely melancholy about his free agency lot with the Raiders.
I was able to score an invite to the Pro Bowl welcome party on the beach and took in the luau. Not quite the Brady Bunch ending scene with Vincent Price and the taboo tiki idol. Instead, it began with a blow from the conch, continued with fire dances and hula and ended with a massive fireworks show that lit the night sky.
Really, though, this Pro Bowl party is just getting started.
P.S. And dont worry, I have my sunscreen with me at all times. SPF 25.