Readers of this blog know that part of my growing up time was spent in Towson Maryland, where I happily watched the Orioles and the Colts, went to Gino Marchettis for french fries and Alan Ameche’s for fried chicken, and drank chicken soup at the car wash in the winter with my Dad.
As the Baltimore Ravens prepare to take on the San Francisco 49′ers, the Ravens are my home team. I have family in SFO, I visit there quite often, and usually, they are my home team. But not this time. Besides the fact that I learned to love sports in Baltimore, there is Michael Oher (I discovered him before you did, I bet) and Ray Lewis. I am a sucker for the old guys in their last game.
The car wash thing is connected to football because Dad and I always had a cup of chicken soup (dried soup and hot water, 25 cents from a machine) at the car wash and headed over to Alan Ameche’s or Gino Marchetti’s with our freshly cleaned car.
I have discovered chicken soup here in Hawai`i that takes me back to Baltimore and the car wash and my Dad. Never mind that it is at the fancy restaurant in Nieman Marcus — Mariposa — it is thick and soothing and just about the same size…although served in a tiny ceramic cup and saucer at the outset of the meal. A pre-bite. pre-sip. It is wonderful. Mariposa is one place I am willing to drive across the mountain for — to have lunch with a friend, with the secret agenda of tasting that soup — and being back in Baltimore with Daddy. Weather cold. Wrapped up warm. And delicious chicken soup. In a paper cup. From a vending machine.
Yesterday, Ian and the boys from the block got together to sand the mallets they needed to prepare for Mochi pounding on the 23rd of December. This is part of the tradition the local Japanese community has kept alive in celebration of the New Year, and for good luck.
When February comes,they will suit up and go into the rainforest looking for already-felled guava trees for next year’s mochi pounding.
Guava-the-perfect-mochi-pounding wood has tannins and so it has to be soaked and dried several times to keep the mochi from turning red.
The guava is put through its paces,including drying, planing, sanding and soaking once again. The mochi pounding will happen at Grandma’s house and everyone knows whose grandma it is. Traditions are like that. They don’t invite change, and they represent stability and values from one generation to the next. Traditions keep us together.
We are especially luck we live in Hawai`i because we have long had the diversity that much of white America seems to be afraid of. We love the traditions each ethnic group has preserved and have learned again to appreciate the host culture and its traditions.
When Chinese New Year comes around on February 10 we will all celebrate the Year of the Snake. We will make Nian Gao, which literally means year cake, light firecrackers and go to a lion dance.
Fat Tuesday, before lent, is celebrated here with Portuguese Malasadas — insanely good, large, super sugared donut holes.
So now we are in the commercially-driven tradition of Christmas, beating each other out for the best deals at Best Buy. On New Year’s we’ll have a party (or not) and drink champagne (or not) or go to a hotel to see a singer from our past (or not). We may not gather as family, as we likely did for Thanksgiving. There are so many traditions more interesting than our own.
Our local FOX affiliate has been running : Manti T’eo: The Making of a Legend. In case you haven’t heard of him, Manti is a line backer for Notre Dame, number 5 on defense (for some crazy reason, there is a number 5 on offense, the quarterback).
Manti is a gracious giant. He is his parent’s son. He has a huge heart and the entire Notre Dame community counts him as theirs. So do we in Hawai`i. Manti played at Punahou to singular acclaim, he is a Heisman candidate and an honorable man.
Manti is a perfect example of how we herald our own in Hawai`i. He will forever be “Hawai`i boy” or “former Punahou defenseman” when he is a famous NFL player. There is no doubt he will be.
Sometimes this seems a bit jingoistic of us. We love sports in Hawai`i, so we always make sure we remind people: Sid Fernandez was always “former Kaiser High School standout;” Shane Victorino is always “Maui boy;” B.J. Penn is “Hilo boy.” When Sid Fernandez departs this mortal coil, his obit will start “Former Kaiser High School standout Sid Fernandez”. He could be 110 and it will say that… If you become famous and you have set foot in Hawai`i, you are ours: Bette Middler . Tammy Duckworth.
Back to Manti : he is the most recruited athlete ever to come out of Hawai`i. 30 schools made him offers. More than Mosi Tatupu. More than Junior Tseu. His GPA was 3.5. He is an Eagle Scout. He volunteered at the Foodbank and Special Olympics, to name just two.
Today is Senior Day at Notre Dame. Manti passed up the NFL draft as a junior so he could be here for Senior Day and the “Notre Dame experience.” In his freshman year, they lost big. This year, they are leading Wake Forest 38-0 in the 4th. There is one minute left to play. Manti just showered his coach with gatorade.
The truth is we have so many talented people in and from Hawai`i. Lucky we live here. Looking forward to seeing “Punahou standout Manti T’eo” play in the NFL.
Johann Olav Koss, perhaps the greatest speed skater of all time, runs an NGO called Right to Play (not to be confused with the 99%’s right to pay).
This weekend, ESPN aired an amazing and inspirational film documenting the birth of Right to Play. Once upon a time, in the last century, Johann Olav Koss was asked by the IOC to lead a group to Eritrea on behalf of Olympic Aid.
On his trip to Eritrea, Koss saw not only the abject poverty Olympic Aid wanted to address, but he realized the children were not allowed, didn’t know how, to play. Vowing to comeback after the Olympics in Lillehammer, Koss put out a request for sports equipment and got enough to fill a plane bound for Eritrea.
The day he left, a Norwegian paper ran a headline which pointed out that Koss was headed to a starving population with toys: What An Idiot the paper said. Koss worried that he had been wrong, but arrived to an Eritrea overwhelmed that he had treated them like human beings.
It has long been known that sports bring people together, and that is Koss’ aim. In Isarel, he trained a team of Israeli and Palestinian boys to play soccer, later bringing them to play in a huge international soccer match. Leery of one another at first, the boys had learned teamwork and earned a bronze medal. When they went home, they Koss organized a game between them and their fathers.
With two parents who were doctors, Koss subsequently trained in medical school in Australia, but then left medicine behind to establish the NGO Right to Play. More than 350 Olympic athletes have joined him in the cause.
(according to its website: Working in both the humanitarian and development context, Right To Play trains local community leaders as Coaches to deliver our programs in more than 20 countries affected by war, poverty and disease in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America.)
Frank DeFord’s book Over Time is a great read, especially if you have followed DeFord’s writing in Sports Illustrated over the years.
He is one of the world’s great sportswriters, and proof that you don’t have to play a sport to really write great stuff about it. He notes that Red Smith said: “If that were true, only dead people would be able to write obituaries.”
Over Time gives a great insider’s view on DeFord’s journey to make sportswriting the best writing there is. Hana Hou, Frank DeFord. I hope you will write about sports forever.
Gloria. Circa 1955.
Gloria. Circa 2012.
Other than working for the American Red Cross in Korea for two years, Gloria Garvey has lived in Hawai`i since 1971. Her opinion and other writing has appeared in: The American Philatelist. Honolulu Weekly, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Honolulu Star Bulletin, The Star Advertiser, Hawai`i Reporter, Pacific Business News, Island Scene, The Design Management Journal.