The real fun starts before the Pro Bowl
January 28, 2013
ALOHA STADIUM, Hawaii (Jan. 28, 2013)-- Sounds, shouts and songs filled the air, Jan. 27, at Aloha Stadium, as servicemembers from all branches joined the local community in welcoming the National Football League's best players for the 2013 Pro Bowl.
But for thousands, the celebration started hours earlier in the stadium parking lot. Fans poured into the parking lots to play games, eat food, and socialize with their families and fellow football fans.
"We like to tailgate every Pro Bowl," said retired Navy Chief Darryl James, a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. "We like to come out, have a good time, grill, eat a lot of food, socialize, and just really enjoy each other and the atmosphere."
The James family set up their tent next to some good friends who happen to be Saints fans.
"Yeah, he roots for the wrong team, but he's my partner, so it's ok," James said jokingly. "If it was a [Pittsburgh] Steelers tent, he wouldn't be allowed next to us, or in my house!"
Some fans' players and teams were not invited to the game, but that didn't stop them from participating and enjoying the festivities.
"I'm a [San Diego] Chargers fan, and there's no Chargers in the Pro Bowl this year, but whatever!" said Sgt. 1st Class James Naber, 45th Sustainment Brigade, 8th Theater Sustainment Command, and lifelong Chargers fan. "This is a great way for us to unwind a little."
Naber's family was with other families and friends from the unit. The back of his SUV was filled with blankets and wrestling kids.
"Some of them are my kids, friend's kids, neighbors ... everybody is welcome," he said, bratwurst in hand. "This is my second Pro Bowl and hopefully not the last."
For some, the whole purpose of their day is to be with one another, enjoy the Hawaiian weather, and maybe, listen to some football on the radio as they tailgated.
"We came here as an office, a bunch of guys, a fellowship, and enjoy this moment in Hawaii, because it's a beautiful day and beautiful place," said Navy Chief Frank Hearn, a Georgia native and die-hard Atlanta Falcons fan. "This is an experience of a lifetime. If you haven't done it, then you're slacking and behind the power curve."
Hearn's group's tailgating philosophy is if you're near them, then you're family.
"A lot of people around us forgot their grill, or their grill kind of disintegrated because they forgot about it from last Pro Bowl, so we have made our grill the community grill," he said pointing to their charcoal grill.
His group agreed that the real fun started before the game.
"Our tailgating is better than the Pro Bowl game will be," he said. "The tailgating is the main event for us, and the game itself is just icing on the cake. This is an absolute knockout! I'm going to try to do this every year."