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Gary’s Blog: Aloha, Robert

By Gary Dickman.

The pain and sadness of sports actually felt good this time. More on that later.

I wish I didn’t have to write about this. For most if not all of us, 2020 was the worst year ever. Not just with COVID, but the tragic losses of two brave Honolulu police officers, Kobe Bryant’s death and, for me, losing family members as well. I had hoped that 2021 would be a much better year. That hasn’t happened as of yet.

I am still very saddened of the news from last Saturday on the passing of Robert Kekaula, only 56 years old. I know this loss has hit the whole state. Robert was a living legend to many. He was so identifiable with sports, mostly UH sports. He was also a talented musician, and had some big acting gigs as well. I have some memories of Robert that might seem simple, but I’ll always remember Robert for these, as well as many other memories.

The first UH football banquet I attended was in 2010, and Robert was the emcee. Usually, the emcee mostly introduces speakers, award winners, etc. Robert started off with a simple comment. “I love the University of Hawaii. I really love UH Football. I mean, I really love UH football.” Again, a simple comment, but I remember the passion in how he said it. It showed how as a supposed unbiased media member, Robert was totally biased. And proud to admit it. I know everyone in the room was reminded how much he cared about his school, his team, his state. And for some reason, I’ve always remembered it, and have thought about it from time to time, and a lot more since Saturday.

I was a fan of Robert’s, like all of us, he was so great at what he did, not only giving us the sports news of the day on KITV’s evening news, but as the play-by-play voice of UH football over the last 10-plus years. I found it interesting and touching while on Twitter on Saturday, that people from all over the country expressed their feelings on how they admired and would miss Robert. I guess with Hawaii being the last game every Saturday while at home over the years, a lot of football fans and media around the country knew who Robert was, and he was associated with UH football.

What I’ll also never forget is Robert Kekaula, the man, and how he touched me on several occasions. Two and a half years ago, my brother Marty passed away suddenly. It hit me hard. I was comforted by how some people reached out to me with very thoughtful words. A lot of them were via social media, some were text messages. Robert and I were more acquaintances then friends. I always got along with him, but every conversation we had was about sports. Until a few years ago. He sent me a message on social media. At the Hawai’i bowl in 2018, I was at Aloha Stadium doing our pregame show in the press box. During a break, I got up to get a drink, and Robert was waiting for me outside the booth. He let me know how sorry he was for my loss, had some very nice things to say about my brother, who he never knew. We talked for the first time without talking sports. He told me about his own father passing away recently, and how he offered his Dad his kidney to help keep him alive. But his Dad wouldn’t allow him to, telling Robert that he needed his kidney more than his Dad. Wow, two incredible sacrifices by these two men. I appreciated his thoughts to me, and the personal story he shared.

I feel that as we see people on TV, or playing sports, musicians, actors, etc, we only see the public side of them. We rarely get to see or know the real person behind what we see publicly. A lot of people knew Robert from TV, and out in public at sporting events. I feel fortunate that I got to know a little of Robert Kekaula, the person, the man without a camera or microphone. It’s people like Robert who make Hawaii such a special place. And even though he won’t be here physically, he’ll live forever in our hearts and minds. Thank you Robert, I’ll never forget you. Aloha.

I started off writing the pain and sadness of sports actually felt good. This is what I mean. Since March of 2020, sports have never felt the same. Even though over the last few months, fans are being allowed at games, seasons are being complete, etc., it still hasn’t been what it used to be. I have wondered if it ever would. I’m going back to New York this week, I’m going to three baseball games, and I’m not at all excited like I usually am when I’m about to go to a live sporting event. I don’t know what’ll it be like being around other fans. Have they been vaccinated? Is it safe here? How different will it be? I haven’t had the level of excitement I usually get.

Last Saturday, the Brooklyn Nets played Milwaukee in a Game 7 of the NBA playoffs. At that time, thinking the Nets could be the NBA champs didn’t excite me like it would have without COVID. But that game did something for me. Even though my Nets lost, it came back. That feeling. I know it all too well. The pain in my stomach when a game ended in dramatic fashion that didn’t go my team’s way. I have had that feeling many times in my life, because my teams usually lost earlier than expected, at least to me. And many of those losses hurt, hurt really bad. That game was a back and forth game, with 19 lead changes, several ties, and  the Nets looked done, down by four with 17 seconds left. Still down by two, fiveseconds left, and Kevin Durant hit a shot with onesecond left that I thought was a three-pointer and the win, and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals. I jumped out of my chair screaming, went around to tell my tworoommates what had happened. No one was home, it was a solo celebration, even the dog was out. And my celebration got toned down a little when I saw that Durant’s toes were on the three-point line. Just two inches and they would have won. So close, yet so far.

For the first time in over a year, I felt it. The feeling that sports can give you that you’ll remember forever, the happiness that is second  to none, at least for me. The feeling only lasted a little while though, five minutes of overtime to be exact. Brooklyn scored the first basket of overtime, then didn’t score again. Milwaukee only scored four points, until the final buzzer and two meaningless free throws made the OT score, 6-2 Milwaukee. Then the pain set in. Big time. And I remembered how it felt. The high of saving a game that was seemingly lost, then losing at the end of OT. And even though it hurt, it felt good to know that sports could mean that much to me again. I wasn’t sure I’d ever feel like that again. It actually felt okay after such an emotional loss. Now that I’ve had those feelings, I hope in the future I feel a lot more of the sports high than the agony of defeat.

I’ll be off the next two weeks, I’ll be in NYC, New Jersey and Philadelphia. This blog will resume on July 12. I’ll have a lot to report after going to a Yankees vs Angels game, Mets vs Milwaukee game, and Phillies vs San Diego game. And if course, Springsteen on Broadway.

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