It’s beer and breakfast for NFL fans watching the games in Hawaii

At 7:35 a.m. Sunday, with birds chirping outside the open windows, Pittsburgh tourist Annmarie Dzura orders her second Miami Vice, a red concoction in a tall, skinny glass, at Ocean’s Sports Bar and Grill in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island. .

Dzura doesn’t even know what’s in it, he guesses the vodka and says, “It’s easy to swallow, and when you get up, it hits your toes.”

Shirley Hull, bar owner and bartender, rushes past other thirsty patrons. Her house isn’t usually crowded this early in the morning. But it’s the day of the NFL game.

And in Hawaii, that means people who want to watch their favorite team’s games that start at 1 pm on the East Coast have to get up with the sun.

Linda Osterholt, right, founder of the fan group, Kona 12s, celebrates the Seahawks’ touchdown at Ocean’s Sports Bar and Grill. Tom Hasslinger/Big Island Now

It also means big business for early drinking for pub owners like Hull, who count down the days each summer until the start of the season when the money and the fun arrive.

Television screens, nine of them, hang from each wall and are tucked into the corners to show most East Coast NFL games.

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The birds compete with the cries of tourists and local fans, or those who groan after their team misses a touchdown or an interception. They wear team jerseys and other apparel to show who they support. Many arrive before 7 am to get a good seat.

The National Football League is America’s most beloved sport and has the financial numbers to prove it, generating $10 billion in revenue during the 2021 season.

But that was a dramatic drop from 2019’s pre-pandemic numbers when it brought in more than $15 billion, which is where it’s expected to return this season.

League commissioner Rodger Goodell expects $25 billion in annual revenue by 2027. That’s more than the 2020 gross domestic product of dozens of countries, including Iceland, Jamaica, Palestine and the Congo.

So people love their football. There is nothing new there.

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But when it comes to watching games, as the entire nation does in cult fashion, does the Aloha State have it any better?

Early starts, thanks to Hawai’i Standard Time, mean fans sip beer over breakfast burritos. The state doesn’t have a home team, but that’s part of the fun. Transplants from all over bring their loyalties with them.

Inside Ocean’s at the Coconut Grove mall in Kona on game day, there’s a colorful sea of ​​different colored jerseys and a roar of voices bellowing in different games on different screens at different times.

This isn’t New England, where nearly everyone is a die-hard Patriots fan. This is Hawai’i, a melting pot of fanhood. Some locals support the Miami Dolphins because their star quarterback is Tua Tagovailoa, who was born on O’ahu. Other locals adopted a favorite team from the mainland, or had a favorite team before moving to the islands.

The experience is so unique that fans even blog about what it’s like to follow their team living thousands of miles from home. The Sports Fandom blog was created by a Hawaii resident who said he has been a lifelong Eagles fan because his parents moved to the state from Philadelphia.

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“It’s a lot of fun,” Hull says as he takes a break from serving beers on tap. “That’s why I opened a sports bar. I love sports, everyone here loves sports.”

Oceans Sports Bar and Grill, which Hull built in 2004 with her husband Todd, typically caters to a late-night crowd and isn’t open for breakfast.

But on Sundays in the fall, Hull gets up at 5 am to help prepare the $15.50 buffet of eggs, pancakes, rice and bacon.

While Hull, a Bay Area native, is a loyal San Francisco fan (she even met her husband at a 49ers event), her bar became a Seattle Seahawks hangout for nearly a decade. During Hawk games, the venue is packed with up to 100 Seattle fans who belong to a Facebook group of Seattleites and Washingtonians called the Kona 12s.

“It used to be a Niners bar,” Hull said. “We let them hang a flag against the Niners one year, and they just took over.”

That was around 2007, when the two teams had a bitter and acrimonious rivalry. Such an acquisition would never happen in Chicago for a Bears hideout, but Hull says with a smile, “It’s all business.” Hull says with a smile. “It’s all business right now.”

At 8 am and Pittsburgh’s Dzura is draining his second Miami Vice. “My boy, TJ,” she yells.

Steelers All Pro defensive end TJ Watt just intercepted a pass from Cincinnati quarterback Joe Burrow.

Mick Shockley, a lifelong Raiders fan and owner of Da Shark Shack bar on Ali’i Drive, keeps his game-day experience relatively low-key, serving up steak and eggs for his Raiders friends.

Some fans clap their hands, while others pray. Tom Hasslinger/Big Island Now

While NFL games start earlier in Hawaii, it also means they end earlier, and all but one of Sunday’s games finish at 2 p.m. When West Coast games wrap up on the islands, there’s still plenty of time to go. to swim in the bay, have a picnic on the beach, or even do some weekend chores, which is what Shockey plans to do: clean out his garage.

That formula is especially true for domestic primetime games. On Thursday and Monday nights, football is at 6 p.m. in Hawaii, so fans can watch until the final whistle and still have enough daylight to hit the beach and watch the sun go down.

For East Coasters like Goodman and Boucher, the six-hour time difference between Homecoming and Kona means they can stay up long enough to watch the latest games wrap up. Primetime matchups in the East don’t end until after midnight, so they said they would rarely see the second half because “we’d be asleep.”

Making the transition from watching the games on the mainland to the older style of Hawai’i can take some getting used to.

Rose Ferrante, Barbara Harlow, Susan Wood, Donna Adams and Jeanette Zarandona get together every Sunday to watch the games. Visiting from Los Angeles and around the West Coast, they attended the Sunday morning games from a table at Ocean’s.

They plan to go shopping later in the day after the games are in the books, which is nice to have so much day left, they said. But, they admit, it was difficult to set an alarm to make sure they saw kick-off.

“Afternoons are good,” Adams said. “But the morning sucks.”

According to Google Analytics, the Hull 49ers are the top fans of NFL teams in the wake of Hawai’i’ annually.

The next favorite is the Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams, Shockley’s Las Vegas Raiders and the Dallas Cowboys, once “Team America.”

But there is a drawback. The average number of DUI arrests on Sundays during the NFL season is higher than on Sundays during the summer.

Defense attorneys across the country promote DUI awareness during football season and say the rise is a national trend. And news station CBS8 in Southern California reported before the Superbowl in February that the day of the big game is one of the biggest drinking days of the year: drunk driving incidents are up about 22% on the day of the game. play.

On the island of Hawaii, the average number of DUI arrests on Sundays in August 2021 was 2.8, based on 2021 data provided by the Hawaii Police Department. During the NFL season, the numbers increased slightly to an average of 3.25 on Sundays in September, October 3, and 4.25 in November.

The stakes were high when Detroit Lions fan Josh Hevelhurst and Eagles supporter Chelsea Onori watched their teams play each other at Quinn’s Almost by the Sea. Tom Hasslinger/Big Island Now

The NFL also lends itself to betting.

Pairing Detroit Lions fan Josh Hevelhurst and Eagles supporter Chelsea Onori marked Week 1 on their schedule in May, when they learned their teams would be playing each other.

Sitting at Quinn’s Nearly by the Sea sports bar, they placed a $50 side bet on loser picking up the breakfast tab, with a couple of cold drinks. The date is going so well that Havelson doesn’t care too much that the Lions are losing.

Even tourists don’t usually order a beer at 7am, but for many fans, football and beer go together like Tom Brady and Super Bowl rings.

The owner of Quinn’s Almost by the Sea, Diane Palacol, knows this. She gets up at 4 am to prepare for the breakfast rush during the season, and her staff knows that on those days everyone is on deck, pouring drinks and serving eggs.

“It’s a fun day to come to work,” he said.

But while watching the NFL in Hawaii is a unique experience for continentals, transplants who are close to other fans of their teams are given a connection to home.

Palacol made his restaurant, with a green exterior, a bar for the Green Bay Packers. The Wisconsin native missed her Cheese Head family when she bought the place in 2004.

Homesickness made her plant a Packer flag outside the restaurant 18 years ago. Fans took notice and slowly migrated. Now it’s awash in green and yellow every NFL game day.

Palacol built his own portion of home in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. She said, “The flag will never come down.”

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