Thursday, September 13, 2007

making something out of nothing.

(Joshua Masayoshi Huff)

The University of Hawaii Men’s football team is currently ranked in the top 25 of both national polls (they moved down four spots the past week in one even though they won their game). This team is the dark horse to crash the BCS party this year, but this entry isn’t about that.

What it is about is the haka that the team does before every game. It was a point of contention last year and continues to be this year. In fact, the Western Athletic Conference has said that no team can perform any dance meant to intimidate the other team. The team performing the haka cannot face the other team and cannot do it on the field.

Fine, said the University of Hawaii. They did the haka last week on a knoll 75 yards from the field and were hit with a 15 yard penalty to start off the game. The Warriors did not break the was the rookie Louisiana Tech coach who was making a big deal out of it. The coach turned out to be immature in more ways than one...but that's neither here nor there.

Hawaii has deep roots with Polynesia, as does New Zealand, where the haka originates. And, Polynesians happen to be very successful in college football--more often than not, most big-time "bowl division" teams are stacked with players with Polynesian ancestry.

Other teams are allowed to stomp on the other team's logo at midfield and are allowed to rally around and cheer and chant before games--I don't see what's different here. This is cultural, and it's no different from any other pre-game ritual. Polynesia has deep roots in Hawaii--the native Hawaiians are from Polynesia themselves. Golden boy Colt Brennan defends the haka staunchly...and he also learned Samoan in order to better communicate with his offensive line. Coach Jones sees nothing wrong with it...and though many have said it could have cost UH the game, it the fault of the players? How can they be penalized for not even breaking a rule?

The New Zealand All-Blacks are intimidating, sure. But, other teams (namely, Tonga) have taken to responding to the All-Black haka by performing their own native dance. Why not take this route? No one is stopping LaTech from rallying around their logo at midfield--why stop Hawaii from something that they do to pump themselves up for the game?

Maybe if Derek Dooley would actually coach instead of whine and would actually determine winning the game as having more points--not by "shutting" down Colt, who still passed for 500+ yards, then Louisiana Tech wouldn't have a terrible record and a new coach every four years that complained about the haka. There are no moral victories in college football--just victories that lead toward bowl games.

Is the UH haka intimidating? Sure it is. But so is the game of football, isn't it? These are huge men, playing a territorial game, pounding the life out of each other for better field position. It's the sport that most resembles an actual war (other than boxing, UFC, etc) because it incorporates land strategy, aerial attacks and retreats.

So what should teams do before games? Have tea parties? Dance ballet?

Get real. If they're allowed to jump around in a circle, yell, and bang helmets, they should be allowed to do a dance that gets them up to perform.

Maybe that's why your team is terrible, Derek: because they'd rather be off doing something else other than getting pumped for the football games that earned them their college scholarships.

Football is an unapologetic, take-no-prisoners game. There's no time to complain about a team's pre-game ritual because it is "intimidating"--that time should be spent preparing, not worrying about how the other team's dance makes you feel. Grow up, Dooley. I'm not even going to pull the "ethnocentric" card on Mr. Dooley because it's superfluous. Sure, it's relevant here, but it's not my main point of contention. College is a time for learning, and we're going to further the homogenization of world cultures by saying that there is no place for the haka in sport?

The Warriors were on a hill, not even facing the stadium. They followed the rules set forth in the WAC bylines, and they were still penalized. I am still aghast at what happened in Ruston. Before you know it, Colt will be forced to sit in the second half by the referees in order to make sure that the other team doesn't feel too badly about losing.