There were no fines levied at the Ihilani either, where the NFL's hard edge was softened by the gentle Hawaiian breezes. Scenes unfolded here that could never take place during the regular season, when football is a life-or-death struggle. San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and Indianapolis Colts quarterback Jim Harbaugh staged a series of poolside chess matches—they ended up playing to a 2-2 draw—interrupted at various times by Harbaugh's taking calls on a cellular phone.
Life in the modern-day NFL is not quite that simple. Some players are no longer sure where their teams will reside next fall: Pro Bowl players from the L.A.-turned-Oakland Raiders (guard Steve Wisniewski, defensive tackle Chester McGlockton, cornerback Terry McDaniel and wideout Tim Brown), the Houston-soon-to-be-Nashville Oilers (center Mark Stepnoski) and the Seattle-soon-to-be-Southern California Seahawks (defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy) sounded like real estate agents in the locker room.
Said Wisniewski, "On Friday, Stepnoski's asking Jerry about Tennessee, because Terry lives there in the off-season. I'm talking to [49ers linebacker] Ken Norton about the Bay Area because we're moving our facility to Oakland this year. And then me and Chester are trying to sell our houses to Cortez, because the Seahawks might be moving to L.A. I offered him the deal of the century."
Real estate was not on the agenda at the Thursday night gathering hosted by Hawaiian native and Pro Bowl tackle Mark Tuinei of the Cowboys, and his wife, Ponolani. On the karaoke stage Ponolani sang an A-plus version of Tina Turner's What's Love Got to Do with It; her husband followed with a passable rendition of Unchained Melody. Then 325-pound Cowboys guard Nate Newton attempted to sing Kool and the Gang's Ladies Night. Said witness Dave Guingona, a San Francisco television producer who has attended the last 14 Pro Bowls, "It was probably the worst karaoke moment here since [former Los Angeles Raiders tackle] Henry Lawrence butchered Lionel Ritchie's All Night Long in 1985."
Guingona is a marvelous source of Pro Bowl lore. There was the time in the mid-'SOs when a bull escaped from a local zoo and former New York Jets defensive end Mark Gastineau wrestled the animal on a Honolulu street. Then there was the infamous NFC huddle in '93 in which then Niners running back Ricky Watters and two-way star Deion Sanders, then with the Atlanta Falcons, demanded the ball from quarterback Steve Young of the 49ers while receivers Rice and Dallas's Michael Irvin accused each other of being the league's most selfish player.
This year the strangest Pro Bowl happening was a scary one. Larry Centers, the Arizona Cardinals' talented 27-year-old fullback, showed up in Honolulu on Monday and began behaving "like he was possessed," says 49ers safety Tim McDonald, a former teammate of Centers's in Phoenix. Centers, according to witnesses, issued wild-eyed proclamations about Jesus one moment, then in the next breath referred to former Cardinals coach Buddy Ryan as the devil. He broke into tears during a team photo session and had fits of uncontrollable laughter in meetings.
On Tuesday, Centers was placed under a doctor's care and alternate Craig (Ironhead) Heyward of the Falcons was summoned from the mainland. By the weekend Centers had regained his equilibrium, but he did not attend the game. "Tin doing great." he said on Saturday night. "I got a little sick. But I'm having a good time. Hey. this is paradise."
As for the game, the NFC held on for a 20-13 victory, and afterward there were smiles all around in both locker rooms, "it's been a great week." said Philadelphia Eagles defensive end William Fuller. "What makes this truly special is that we can hang out with guys we spend all season trying to kill."