Friday, October 28, 2005

Cougar postscript | by Jay

A couple of odds and ends we enjoyed from the BYU game.

• "I won't lie to you, Notre Dame is such a fun place to play. I loved every minute of it, uh, except for when we weren't making plays." -- Cougar linebacker Cameron Jensen in the SLC Trib.

"I don't know which finger, but about three-quarters of the nail and up is gone. They closed that and sewed it together after the game."

Remember that warm-up taunt/cheer the BYU players did right before the game, that sort of looked like a cross between a Mexican hat dance and the Ickey Shuffle? Well, it turns out it's much cooler than that.

It was actually a New Zealand Maori tribal ritual called the Haka Dance. You might remember it from the movie Whalerider (unless you're a Maori tribesman, in which case you remember it from growing up.)

Haka is the generic name for all Māori dance. Today, haka is defined as that part of the Māori dance repertoire where the men are to the fore with the women lending vocal support in the rear. Most haka seen today are haka taparahi (haka without weapons).

For most non-Māori New Zealanders today their knowledge of Haka is perhaps limited to that most performed of Haka called "Ka mate, Ka mate". Many sports teams and individuals travelling from New Zealand overseas tend to have the haka "Ka mate" as part of their programme. The sports team that has given the haka the greatest exposure overseas has been the All Blacks, who perform it before their matches. It has become a distinctive feature of the New Zealand All Blacks.

More than any aspect of Māori culture, this complex dance is an expression of the passion, vigour and identity of the race. Haka is not merely a past time of the Māori but was also a custom of high social importance in the welcoming and entertainment of visitors. Tribal reputation rose and fell on their ability to perform the haka (Hamana Mahuika).

The Haka was brought to the Cougars by BYU wide receiver Bryce Mahuika, whose grandfather was a chief of the Ngati Porou tribe, and whose father helped keep alive the family's Maori culture after they moved to Hawaii. Mahuika's father passed away last spring, and after the funeral, Bryce had an idea of how to help build the Cougars' team spirit, as well as preserve his father's legacy. Total Blue Sports has the story:

Following his father’s funeral, Bryce returned to Provo to join his teammates. During a team meeting in April, Coach Mendenhall asked each of his players to address the team with a personal request.

“When I had gotten back here, Coach Mendenhall asked the team, what it would take to win this year, and he wanted people to come up and tell the team what it is going to take.” said Mahuika. “I had just gotten back from my dad’s funeral, so I just wanted to go up and thank the team for all the support they gave me through the whole thing. So I went up there with that intent.”

With a heart full of gratitude for the support he received during his time of trial, Bryce Mahuika was simply going to thank the team for their support, but while addressing the team he received a flash of inspiration that would meet the requirements Coach Mendenhall gave to his players.

“When I got up there it just kind of hit me that doing the Haka would help our team out and get us ready before the games. There were times last year where I thought we kind of came out flat and not as focused as we should have been. So I brought it up because I thought it would help, and basically just told the team what it was and what the Maori people used to do it for, and I just said that I would love to lead you guys in a Haka before the game if you guys were up for it.”

Coach Mendenhall and the team accepted Mahuika’s request and war dance practices began soon thereafter.

“It makes me feel good because I know my dad was such a big fan, and honestly I wish he could have been there to have seen it, but just to know that we are doing it is a really good feeling,” Mahuika said. ”It’s in somewhat of dedication to him, at least the first one I feel was in dedication to him, but really there are a ton of purposes for doing this. For one, to bring the team together, for another in dedication to my dad, it gets us fired up before the game and it gets the crowd going it early. I think it will be a new tradition as long as I’m here and the coaches want to do it, I don’t think any of that will ever be a problem.”

For a video of the Cougars doing the Haka Dance, click here.