Extra Point

By Mike Fitzgerald

Monday, August 26, 1996

Football must be
just around the corner

AH, the smell of college football is in the air these days in Hawaii.

Or maybe that's Campbell Industrial Park.

I can always tell when the opening kickoff for the University of Hawaii season is quickly approaching.

Here's an example: Just the other day, an obvious Rainbow fan stuck his head out of a car window and yelled "Hey, Fitzgerald!"

Thinking it was a friend - or even one of my 17 avid column readers - I started to wave. But then he gave me the finger and shouted an obscenity before driving off.

I instinctively picked up a rock and was ready to take a three-step drop and fire it through his rear window. But after watching so much UH football over the years, my throw probably would have come up 15 yards short and instead beaned a tourist on a moped.

Then I would have had to cover the football season with the ominous cloud of "released pending investigation" over my head.

And, no, this incident did not occur at 4 a.m. on Hotel Street. It was in the afternoon at a location near my apartment - which, by the way, has a moat filled with fierce crocodiles, each weighing as much as Akebono.

Let's see, where were we? Uh, passes coming up short ... Oh, yeah, UH football.

So you think that new coach Fred vonAppen should be the only nervous guy on Oahu as the opening kickoff looms? I'm a little worried, too. Just the thought of trying to walk through all of the tailgate parties gives me pigeon skin, or whatever that term is.

A few seasons ago, an obviously deranged tailgater and UH fanatic ran up and dumped a hibachi full of hot coals over my head. OK, that's a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.

And then I somehow managed to aggravate vonAppen without actually writing a negative word about the guy. A column last week included some vicious cheap shots - which I normally save for after the first game. But they were reprinted from a gambling tip sheet out of Boston.

I heard that vonAppen was madder than if someone had stolen his book on Impressionism. And this is before one key fumble, a single dropped pass, a missed tackle or blocked punt.

BUT I'm sure he has more important things on his mind this week, with heavily favored Boston College coming to town. And the Eagles aren't even staying in Waikiki. They're out at Turtle Bay, thus eliminating the 4 a.m. Kalakaua Avenue hooker parade as a home-field advantage.

Several big questions remain just before the opener, though:

Will Bob Wagner be at the game?

Will Hugh Yoshida be there, or will he be on the mainland putting on a seminar on how to lose half of your starting football players to ineligibility?

Will the "West Coast" offense resemble the "Pali At Rush Hour" attack of the past?

Will Josh Skinner be the starting quarterback by the second half of the BC game?

Only time and the scoreboard will tell.

In fact, this season could be a wild ride for everyone involved. This slow, undersized team with no depth could realistically finish 1-11.

On the other cleat, if this coaching crew of football-rich drifters is really outstanding - which means winning with the fired coach's players - 6-6 or even 7-5 is a possibility.

If vonAppen and his Magical Mystery Staff can pull off .500 or better, he should get a huge raise. Or at least the new carpet he requested.

Anyway, the key word for UH fans - and vonAppen as well - will likely be patience.

See you all at the opener. I'll be in the parking lot before the game.

Just look for the fake beard and dark glasses.

Mike Fitzgerald's commentary appears every
Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

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