A Holiday Sports Fest In Hawaii

This holiday season contains early Christmas gifts for Hawaii sports fans.

As always, the Iolani Classic featured a sampling of the nation’s outstanding high school basketball talent. Traditional powers such as Philadelphia’s Roman Catholic, New York’s Mount Vernon and L.A.’s Westchester compete against local teams and each other. In many cases, these Iolani Classic games are a preview of future NBA players.

That leads to this week’s Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, featuring highly ranked and high-scoring Iowa State, coached by former Cyclone and NBA player Fred Hoiberg. St Mary’s is back with another excellent group coached by Randy Bennett. So is Boise State with a team returning its top six players that is expected to compete for a Mountain West title.

Akron, George Mason, South Carolina, Oregon State and the Rainbow Warriors comprise the rest of a strong field. There is an odds-on chance that President Obama will be at the Stan Sheriff Center to watch Oregon State, coached by Michelle Obama’s brother Craig Robinson. With the Obamas enjoying their annual Hawaii Christmas vacation, it’s reasonable to expect that the president might even be there more than once.

And while basketball will prevail Dec. 22, 23 and 25, Christmas Eve is reserved for the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Executive director Dave Matlin and the folks from ESPN Regional pulled a rabbit from the hat by horse trading out of Conference USA into the Pac-12 to secure a Boise State-Oregon State match-up. That’s about as well as you can do with UH absent from the game.

We’ve started a little tradition in our house when UH is not playing: I take my two boys and my Scottish father-in law out to the game, and my wife is thrilled to have our home to herself for a few hours. We always have a blast, but it’s one day where I’d rather be working!

And Christmas week will have some bowl games to enjoy on the tube. On the day after Christmas, the Poinsettia Bowl features Northern Illinois and Utah State, and Dec. 27 has the Fight Hunger Bowl with Washington and BYU. On Dec. 28 you can watch Notre Dame and Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, with Louisville and Miami paired up in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Could be Cardinal quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s final collegiate game.

And while we’re tuned into bowl games, we can debate the merits of the candidates for the University of Texas coaching job and speculate on the fate of NFL coaches whose teams failed to meet expectations. Those conversations probably stave off more serious family arguments, although that may depend on what part of the country you’re from. Someone tried to compare the Auburn-Alabama rivalry with that of Stanford-Cal. I had to disagree. When the Cardinal-Bear fans get to insulting each other, one might accuse the other of too much tannin in their Cabernet. When it turns nasty with Crimson Tide-Tiger fans, they stab you with a pitchfork and poison your trees!

All of the games this holiday season should help usher in the new year in a magnificent way. Happy Holidays to all!