Mariota, Victorino: Flyin’ Hawaiians

Is it an overused cliché? Or a fun nickname? The Flyin’ Hawaiian (yes, it does rhyme, kind of) has been utilized by sportswriters and publicity departments so much lately it’s hard to figure out who actually owns the title.

Historically, there was Squirmin’ Herman Wedemeyer, the original Flyin’ Hawaiian. A few years back, there was Natasha Kai, the Olympic soccer star from Kahuku and University of Hawaii. Her high-flying athleticism definitely deserved the moniker. Then, there’s Major League Baseball star Shane Victorino, who gained a reputation of crashing into outfield walls. He is perhaps the best known nationally as The Flyin’ Hawaiian.

In college football, former Saint Louis star Marcus Mariota has a Twitter handle of @FlyinHawaiianUO. The way this kid’s been playing lately at the University of Oregon, he may have a chance to eclipse Victorino in popularity.

And there are more examples – a restaurant in Portland, a Zipline company on Maui, a good-tasting cocktail, even an up-and-coming amateur boxer in Alaska. Perhaps the oddest story comes from the Bay Area, where a 65-foot catamaran with the name Flyin’ Hawaiian made headlines recently because of the antics of its owner.

James “Hot Rod” Lane – how’s that for a nickname – was arrested after a fight with the local harbor master, in which he allegedly bit his adversary’s finger to the bone. While he was in jail, his catamaran, which he built from scratch and hoped to sail to Hawaii someday, apparently went missing. After a search by many in the sailing community, the missing boat was found to have drifted from Richardson Bay near San Rafael to nearby Belvedere. Now, the Flyin’ Hawaiian is apparently well anchored off Sausalito. No word, however, on whether its owner is still in the finger-biting business.

Whoever actually owns the nickname is irrelevant, really, because, in most cases – Hot Rod Lane the one exception – what it does is raise awareness of great athletes with Hawaii ties. Both Victorino and Mariota will have a chance to raise it even higher this fall.

Victorino is as responsible as anyone of his teammates for the resurgence of the Boston Red Sox this season. The Maui-native has raised his average to nearly .300 and has a number of game-winning hits and big home runs in the last few weeks. As I write this, the Red Sox have the best record in baseball and there’s no reason to downplay their chances of making it all the way to the World Series.

He’s a perfect fit, whether the Red Sox play him in centerfield or rightfield or bat him leadoff or in another position in the lineup. I had a chance to see him in action this summer in historic Fenway Park, and I can attest to the fact that he brings his own exciting version of the aloha spirit to the ballpark every day.

Mariota’s high-flying exploits at quarterback should go well past October. As his Oregon Ducks prepare for their Pac-12 home opener against Cal-Berkeley Sept. 28 in Eugene, Mariota is leading his team to more than 60 points per game. He was so spectacular in his last outing against Tennessee that he surpassed 400 yards in passing offense and barely played half the game.

Mariota’s Ducks are No. 2 in the country right now, and the odds-on favorite to play for a national title in January. The red-shirt sophomore is one of the top three or four Heisman Trophy candidates in the country, and his chances of winning both a national title and a Heisman are not a pipe dream. Only time will tell.

One thing’s for certain – you’re going to see the nickname The Flyin’ Hawaiian all over the TV, Internet and sports pages for the next several weeks. Enjoy.