A long time ago on Sunday afternoons, before Brent and Irv and Phyllis and The Greek, before Curt and Terry and Howie and Jimmy, before J.B. and Coach and Tony and the other guy — before Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, even — they used to show marching bands at halftime of TV football games.
Sometimes, usually late in the season, they would show kids punting and passing and kicking a football. Where I grew up, it usually was halftime of the Bears-Lions game in Detroit, and the weather almost always would be overcast, like it could snow at any minute.
Some kid wearing a replica Bears helmet and jersey — the pants always were unadorned white, like something Penn State might wear — would taking a running start and hurl the football as far as he could down this ribbon, landing strip thing rolled out over the hash marks. You had to throw it straight and land it on the ribbon thing, or they would subtract points.
Then some jumbo-sized kid wearing a replica Lions helmet with jersey No. 78 or 79 — he was much too big to wear the quarterback numbers — invariably would hurl the football way over the skin part of the infield at old Tiger Stadium. Farther than Greg Landry could probably hurl it.
This was Punt, Pass and Kick. PP&K started in 1961, and when I was a kid, it was a big deal. They still have it, and it’s still a pretty big deal, though they don’t give you a replica NFL jersey any more, only one that says “Play 60: The NFL Movement for an Active Generation.” And they give you a hat instead of a replica helmet.
I know what Alex Karras probably would say were he still alive: Harumph! Same for Butkus and Nitschke.
Also, kids don’t get to punt, pass and kick on TV anymore, mostly because Terry and Howie and Michael Strahan are always banging on about something at halftime, and also because one of the kids might take a divot or something, and then Russell Wilson could suffer a high ankle sprain.
But they still have Punt, Pass and Kick every year. And thousands of kids still sign up for it every year, even if they only give you a hat instead of a helmet.
A kid from Henderson named Kealiiholookoa Maruyama finished third in the boys’ 14-15 division, which is the big kids division, in the national finals at halftime of the Panthers-Seahawks playoff game at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field on Saturday. The competition was held before the game, at the Seahawks’ indoor practice facility, the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, on the waterfront.
But the kids were recognized over the public address system at the game, and then they were even allowed onto the field to throw an exhibition pass. Young Kealiiholookoa, a sophomore junior varsity football and baseball player at Foothill High representing the San Diego Chargers, said with the pressure off, he really let one fly. Like Russell Wilson. The Seahawks fans who didn’t go out for a beer at halftime cheered.
Young Kealiiholookoa said although he didn’t win, third in the nation was way better than he had hoped. He was the smallest of the finalists. Throwing the football at halftime in front of all those people who didn’t go out for beers made him feel like the Chief Overall, which is what his name means in Hawaiian.
Kealiiholookoa is the oldest of Kapuaalii and Tarra Maruyama’s three children. Kapuaalii used to be in the home mortgage business, now he teaches special education. Tarra is still in the home mortgage business. They met at Brigham Young, where Kapuaalii was a rugby player when Ty Detmer was quarterback. They are friendly people, and so is their son.
This was the first time Kealiiholookoa had signed up for PP&K. He said he had a friend who had signed up a couple of years ago, and that his friend had had a blast. So he signed up, too. He said he never dreamed he would make it onto the field at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, where the regionals were, and then to CenturyLink Field during a playoff game, where the atmosphere was electric.
He said the Seahawks faithful cheered for all the kids, especially the ones from Seattle, when they threw their exhibition passes. All except for one.
Kealiiholookoa Maruyama, the third-best young punter, passer and kicker in the land, said when it was the turn of the little girl representing the San Francisco 49ers to throw a pass, the crowd booed.
Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at email@example.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski