Mahalo means thank you in Hawaiian. I will not be working the Pro Bowl this weekend but the game and the Hawaiian Islands will always have a special place in my heart. My wife and I actually got married in Honolulu 31 years ago (wow, times flies) on the Friday before a Sunday Pro Bowl. Caught a couple of passes from Joe Montana that day. Joe was 49er cool. Dwight Clark (#87 of “The Catch” fame) was his prime target at the time. I remember going out to lunch the next year with a young rookie linebacker by the name of Lawrence Taylor. He turned out to be a pretty good player too.
Hanauma Bay is a protected marine life conservation area and underground park on the island of Oahu – not far from where everyone’s having fun in Waikiki. The explanation tells you that Hanauma Bay is a place where you can walk out into the water to knee-high and look down and see a hundred fish swimming around your feet! And it’s true. Did that one afternoon with Ahmad Rashad and Ronnie Lott, and to this day, I believe that’s when Ronnie Lott and I became friends and I kind of think that’s the reason he only tackled me at about 95% force.
The Pro Bowl used to be played the week after the Super Bowl, but has now been moved into that vacuum between the AFC/NFC Championship Games and the Super Bowl. I’m sure for marketing purposes the NFL figures it’s the right thing to do, but I liked it as the last stop of the NFL season. When the Pro Bowl teams are introduced on the field, the winning Super Bowl conference would go last with the teams going in alphabetical order prior to the Super Bowl Champions Pro Bowlers being the last to be introduced. Then the newly introduced Pro Football Hall of Famers would be saluted in the gauntlet between the two squads. That was a pretty powerful moment for me when I was introduced as a Hall Of Famer in January 2003.
I should mention that 25 years earlier I played in my first Pro Bowl in Los Angeles after the 1978 season. Roger Staubach and Archie Manning (yes, the Dad) were my quarterbacks! The game used to be played at various stops around the country – and this one in Los Angeles was also my hometown. The game moved to Hawaii the next season, and with the exception of a pit stop in Miami two years ago, it’s home has been Aloha Stadium on the island of Oahu.
I played in my last Pro Bowl after the 1991 season. I was a member of the Buffalo Bills and we were on the Super Bowl run. I caught one pass that afternoon from my 1968 Pop Warner Football teammate Warren Moon. Warren was then the quarterback of the Houston Oilers and had just passed for back-to-back 4,000-yard seasons.
I saved one highlight of the Pro Bowl for last. My wife who I married 31 Pro Bowls ago delivered our first child David 28 Pro Bowls ago. Also on a Friday before a Sunday Pro Bowl in January 1984. The football season used to start earlier and end earlier with no bye weeks and my wife got on that non-stop flight from Chicago with a giant belly and held that baby in on that long flight over the Pacific Ocean. We arrived about 6 weeks before the due date and we spent another month there after the baby was born. So to the Pro Bowl I say a big mahalo. Oh yeah, and since aloha means hello and goodbye. Aloha!
– James Lofton
James may not have made it to Hawaii this year, but he will be in Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI. He’ll be manning the sidelines for our broadcast. Complete details on our Super Bowl coverage can be found here.