FanDuel - WFBC

November 16, 2006

We're Going to Die! We're Going to Die! We're Going to Live!: A high school football team in Texas has begun doing a ritual Maori war dance called the haka before their games, inspired by the 24 Tongan players on their team and the New Zealand rugby All Blacks, whose pre-game haka is the stuff of YouTube legend.

posted by rcade to football at 10:09 PM - 26 comments

I used to live in Tonga, and remember the dances well, especially the ones before big rugby games. Although in the last day or two, unfortunately, other kinds of war dances have been all the rage in downtown Nuku'alofa.

posted by owlhouse at 10:14 PM on November 16

I live in the Euless, TX area, and there is nothing better than Texas football playoffs. The town gets totally pumped for home games, and tomorrow is the start of the playoffs. I do have to add that the opposing teams often complain about the haka, though nothing has ever been done.

posted by dviking at 10:54 PM on November 16

Thanks for this, rcade. I'm not a native Texan, so a lot of TX HS football is weird and foreign (no pun intended) to me. Living in Dallas proper, the suburban parts are even more distant. dviking - have you gone to any of the games in which this happens? Is the Tongan community noticable in the H-E-B area? I'm genuinely curious.

posted by Ufez Jones at 12:47 AM on November 17

"93 visibly agitated teammates" 93? I knew American football had big squads but 93? And to see them all doing a haka, that has gotta be intimidating.

posted by Fence at 02:55 AM on November 17

Pretty cool how it's integrated the community... But this is too funny: The team has performed the haka at elementary-school assemblies in order to fire up the children before state-mandated tests.

posted by SummersEve at 06:14 AM on November 17

I'm with Fence: do high school football teams have 93 players in their squad?! In my old school, that would have been virtually every single male student in the entire year group! But yeah, the Haka (and all of the different variations from the Pacific island nations) is a truly legendary part of sport. Just watching rcade's video link of the All Blacks squaring up against the Tongans made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

posted by afx237vi at 07:45 AM on November 17

My highschool lost to this team last year in the State Finals, we were up 14-0 and then they came back and beat us, their offensive line was HUGE.

posted by joeyjfive at 07:51 AM on November 17

I think the larger question is how 24 Tongans came to play high school football in Texas. Hakas are neat. I fully support such activities.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 07:59 AM on November 17

Weedy: I think the larger question is how 24 Tongans came to play high school football in Texas. Here's a pretty good explanation. I saw this on Trans World Sport* once. American football has become a massive sport in the Pacific Islands, and is used by many young guys to get scholarships in US schools and colleges. I dunno how 24 Tongans all ended up in the same Texan high school, but I'd hazard a guess that it is something similar. This is much to the chagrin of Australia and New Zealand. Instead of going to those countries to play rugby, they are now going to America to play football. *By the way, does this show get syndicated at all in the US? It's probably the best general-purpose sports show in the world, and has been on for years and years.

posted by afx237vi at 08:19 AM on November 17

From the linked article: "But at Trinity, the war dance embraces the culture of a growing population of immigrants from the island kingdom of Tonga, in the southwest Pacific east of Fiji. An estimated 4,000 people of Tongan descent live in Trinity's hometown of Euless, a city of 52,900 whose boundaries include about 2,800 acres of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Tongan community leaders say that most of the Pacific Islanders were drawn to the area over the past 20 years by jobs at the airport, where many of them work as baggage handlers or service employees. For those with airline jobs, company flight privileges have made it easier for them to fly home regularly."

posted by Venicemenace at 08:22 AM on November 17

I think the larger question is how 24 Tongans came to play high school football in Texas. evidently to work as baggage handlers for the local airport, according to the article (which seems so odd as to be slightly funny...that a job like that could be such a driving force to get a concentration of any one nationality into one place)

posted by bdaddy at 08:23 AM on November 17

Hey all, let me answer a couple of questions. First, Texas, especially the D/FW area has a ton of huge schools. Many 5A schools have enrollments of over 1000 kids a grade. So, with so many kids, a lot of programs dress every player that tries out for football. So, yes 93 kids on a team happens. My kids go to a school that suits up 68 players. Of course, a lot never play much. As to Euless, and the haka, and how much of a presence the Tongan population has. Because the Euless is a fairly large city, totally surrounded by a large metropolitan area, the effect of 4000 people isn't huge on a daily basis. However at a Trinity game it is quite impressive. I have attached a link to Trinity's roster. Note the number of 250# and up players...this looks more like a NCAA Div 1-A team! http://www.trinitytrojanfootball.com/rosters/2006/varsity2006.htm

posted by dviking at 09:18 AM on November 17

I'm with Fence: do high school football teams have 93 players in their squad?! Depends on the size of the school. I played for a high school with a student body of 1,800 in the late 80s, and IIRC, we had about 80 guys on the roster, plus a full junior varsity and freshman program. Some of the schools in the Chicagoland area (boo! hiss!) have more than 4,000 students now, and their programs resemble Division II NCAA camps, with more than 100 kids running around at any given time. They actually have to cut down to get to a reasonable roster size.

posted by wfrazerjr at 09:51 AM on November 17

93? I knew American football had big squads but 93? And to see them all doing a haka, that has gotta be intimidating. I went to high school in California and my sophomore year the Frosh/Soph team had ~85 players. (Varsity had ~50.) The coach didn't cut any one. If you wanted to be on the team and participate, you could.

posted by Jeffwa at 11:57 AM on November 17

Sorry - I know they work at the airport and such from the article - but it still strikes me as one of those delightfully random situations. And 4,000 Tongans is 7.5% of the population of the whole city. That's a huge amount for such a small Pacific island to be sending over (There are only about 102,000 Tongans in Tonga). It's not like there is the equivalent in many other cities (or that there aren't airports in other places that also play football). Nope - Tongans go Euless, Texas. Just one of those things that makes me smile. There are apparently also Tongan populations in California, Hawaii and.... Salt Lake City. Because, also apparently, Tonga has the most mormons outside of SLC. Conclusion - Tonga is a fucking interesting place.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:23 PM on November 17

If I played against these guys in high school, I think I would have died laughing before the game even started. Save the dancing for the pagentry and marching bands and cheerleaders. All this does is distract the opposing team while they're trying to warm up. Eve:But this is too funny: The team has performed the haka at elementary-school assemblies in order to fire up the children before state-mandated tests. Ditto!

posted by yay-yo at 12:25 PM on November 17

I owe my son-in-law to JUCO football. He is Samoan and came to Kansas to play for our local team. Stayed and married my daughter. He was one of 5 on that team that year. If you look at the Snow Juco and Dixie College in Utah they have a large number Polynesian players. 90% of them are linemen and huge. Even BYU and Utah D1 schools have lots of Polynesians. This is mainly because Samoa is very largely morman. I would imagine Tonga is the same.

posted by scottypup at 02:41 PM on November 17

I bet if you played against these guys in high school, you wouldn't have laughed during the game. I played in a band with a Pacific Islander and he was STRONG. He would load his B-3 organ (about 400-500 pounds) into the truck unaided. Nice guy, too. We paid him first.

posted by THX-1138 at 03:44 PM on November 17

"I had two older men with tears in their eyes tell me afterward, 'After seeing that, we know that our future generations will be accepted here,'" Mr. Ofa said Sounds to me like the team performing the haka has done a whole lot more than just hype the team up for the games. In the paragraph the coach said he would never think about stopping the team from doing the haka in the future. Good for him.

posted by jojomfd1 at 06:59 PM on November 17

Thank God, Bush's border wall can't keep these guys out. The Tongoans and Maori are great people with wonderful cultural history.

posted by jazzdog at 01:51 PM on November 18

Thank God, Bush's border wall can't keep these guys out. Clueless. And obviously spoken by someone who doesn't live in a border state.

posted by mjkredliner at 02:40 PM on November 18

Thank God, Bush's border wall can't keep these guys out. Clueless. And obviously spoken by someone who doesn't live in a border state. We're all immigrants aren't we in North America? Diversity and variety are key ingredients in an interesting and vibrant society. We have all come from other places to live in North America, probably because it home to 2 of the greatest countries in the world. A society/country that discourages new and interesting cultures will wither and die. I am thankful for the multicultural opportunities in my community and for all the different races and enthic cultures that I have occasion to interact with. Whitebread bland societies are doomed to failure and extinction.

posted by tommytrump at 07:29 PM on November 18

The point was that "Bush's border wall" has nothing to do with the conversation at all. The Tongan people have immigrated legally I presume, "Bush's border wall" is not meant to stop legal immigration, it is meant to thwart those who would do so illegally, and with the support of many a rancher and others whose livelihood is affected adversely by illegal immigration.

posted by mjkredliner at 10:10 PM on November 18

Sportsfilter, not politicalfilter.

posted by justgary at 12:06 AM on November 19

I'm building a border wall in this discussion to keep out any more comments about illegal immigration.

posted by rcade at 11:08 AM on November 19

Trinity won 41 to 0, setting up a game next week that will pit the two 5A champions from last year. Euless was the Div 1 winner, Southlake Div. 2 Both Euless Trinity and Southlake Carroll are undefeated, and it should be a heck of a game.

posted by dviking at 05:05 PM on November 19

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