Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, August 23, 1999

Kicking off
UH football

LAST year was excruciating for die-hard University of Hawaii football fans. On the Saturdays that the Rainbows were in town, the clan and I would dutifully carpool to Aloha Stadium. We'd park, clomp up a steep flight of stairs, then settle in for a tortuous night of never-quite-good-enough.

Fortunately, there was an upside to being 0-12.

There weren't any lines at the women's restrooms or concession stands. No traffic crawls on the way home. And the anticipation of that elusive win was almost too titillating to stand. The promise kept enticing us back every week. We didn't want to miss that delicious first victory.

Talk about lean and hungry times.

The final 48-17 loss to Michigan mercifully brought 1998 to a close. At least '99 will be better -- with June Jones as UH's new head coach.

Now I'm no Bill Kwon. But even this non-sports expert knows it's a stunner when the interim leader of the San Diego Chargers turns down a shot at permanent appointment to educate a college team, and a winless one at that.

His idealism is endearing. So is his affection for Hawaii.

Jones, who's given more speeches in the past few months than a Toastmaster in training, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity at Saturday's Na Koa Football Club fund-raiser at the UH Stan Sheriff Center.

He confessed that, on leaving his just-purchased Diamond Head home every morning for UH, he pulls his car over for about 15 minutes to admire the sunrise and watch surfers tame the waves.

Corny, maybe. Understandable? Of course, especially for people like Jones and his wife, Diane, who once lived in the state, left for the mainland and were successfully cajoled to return.

Even Mouse Davis, who said he's "only" visited the islands about 12 times, is envious of what's in store for Jones, his staff and players.

Davis -- father of the run-and-shoot offense and the coach at Portland State when Jones was its quarterback -- gave an arm-flailing, animated pep talk as guest speaker at Saturday's event. And the advice he dispensed to jocks can be transferred to those who toil in offices, classrooms or anywhere else:

1) Wash your mind of everything except what you are supposed to be focusing on at that moment, said Davis. "The game is not the time to think about your rent or your girlfriend or anything but the task at hand," he told the crowd.

2) Football is a one-snap game, just like golf is a one-shot game. Confront each play with renewed vigor.

3) Embrace the Nike slogan: Just Do It. "This is why repetition is so important on the practice field; reaction must be immediate and unconscious," Davis said.

Concentration. Determination. Practice. One, two, three.

"If you have 22 guys in the zone, they can score or stop scoring," said the Mouse who roared. "That's when you win."

THEN Jones returned to the podium and made a prediction that may have been hyperbole but sure sounded sweet to die-hard UH football fans aching for success. Coach told the players in attendance that they were going to be part of "the greatest turnaround in NCAA history."

Oh yeah, baby! The two Danish hikers are found, the Hawaii Hammerheads are champs of the Indoor Professional Football League, kids go back to school this week and UH football kicks off on Sept. 4, with a new coach and restored hope.

Like Publishers' Clearinghouse says, we may already be a winner.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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