RIP Robert Kekaula: Remembering the Late Evening King of School Soccer
Robert Kekaula passed away this weekend.
The University of Hawaii soccer team lost their announcer, but college football lost one of the sport’s greatest cult figures. How familiar you were with Robert Kekaula was a good indicator of what a football fan you are.
Many college football fans only watch the sport when their team is playing. Some are just interested in watching games with ranked teams or schools from large conferences. Unless they happen to live in Hawaii, these people may not have known who Robert Kekaula was.
For another breed of college football fan, Kekaula was a mascot. Some of us are college football junkies. We consume as much of the sport as possible, even if it is a game that is not very good by conventional standards. We’re watching the MAC Games Tuesday night, the ACC Coastal Games Thursday night between Duke and Pitt, and the kick-off between UNLV and Nevada at 10:00 a.m. EST on a Friday night. The biggest indicator of whether or not someone is a real college football junkie is how many nights per season they spend streaming Hawaii football shows with Robert Kekaula on the Spectrum Sports app.
We only have 15 days a year wall-to-wall with the best sport in the world, and so much happens on an autumn Saturday that it’s often too much to digest. As you tried to ponder all of the day’s results and the postponement of the national championship and conference title races, there was something comforting about watching the final game of the slate on the island.
If you love college football in its purest form, every Saturday is like Christmas. When the drama of the primetime games came to an end, Kekaula was there with another unopened present. The fact that the clock could be set to Sunday in the Eastern Timezone while a game was starting on the big island in the late day sun always felt like some kind of magic. Robert Kekaula was the narrator for all of this.
He was there to make sure the last college football call was a happy one and gently ran your twelve hour hum to the tarmac. Need a friend to help you process things after watching your team lose a close game in the night? Kekaula was there with an “Aloha” and a smile and wished us all a nice evening. Did you have a bad match day? On-screen kekaula meant another chance to get evened back and not have to pay your bookmaker on Monday.
It was all the better that Kekaula himself was representative of why we love the sport as a whole. It was quirky and uniquely regional. The man sounded like Cookie Monster, and his style of announcement was marked by a unique cadence that came out in bursts. His wardrobe was immaculate.
Kekaula was the kind of character who would never get anywhere near an NFL broadcast booth, but he was perfectly at home in the Spectrum Sports app and uniquely suited to our sport. Like any good fan, Kekaula despised his team’s rivals. He once unsubscribed from a show in Fresno state with the line “and from the armpit of America …”.
As college football fans began using Twitter and message boards in the 2000s and 2010s, the Kekaula cult grew. Hawaii football became the fireplace around which the sport gathered to discuss the day’s events on Twitter. The folks at Reddit’s college football community, r / CFB, called it “The Hawaii Test.” If there is ever an entry section in the College Football Hall of Fame, Kekaula deserves a lot of attention.
Kekaula was at his best when Hawaii scored points and threw them all over the field. As a native Hawaiian, he was an uncompromising homer. Behind the microphone of the Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan years, Kekaula will forever be part of the unique piece of college football history that was the June Jones era of Hawaii football. Sometimes you tuned in to drift off in the second quarter, but sometimes the midnight game was a thriller.
What made it even funnier was that Kekaula seemed to understand the niche he was filling for us die-hard people. He replied to tweets from fans and always seemed genuinely excited to share his love for Hawaii with anyone willing to listen.
The state of Hawaii and the University of Hawaii lost two legends this off-season. First with the death of Brennan and now with the loss of Kekaula. Football continues on the big island at midnight, but things will be different without Kekaula behind the microphone. Despite his absence, we will tune in and do our best to have a pleasant evening. Robert Kekaula wouldn’t want it any other way.