Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, December 13, 1999

A T-shirt that brings
holiday cheer

WHAT'S green and white, and -- when worn in public -- brings smiles all over? It's my new T-shirt -- the one that declares in big, bold letters on the front, "June Jones for Governor." And on the back, "He's not just a passing fancy."

If the moniker's not familiar, you're obviously not a University of Hawaii football fan.

Jones only managed to lead the UH Rainbows from an 0-12 wipeout last year to an 8-4 record and an appearance in the Oahu Bowl on Christmas Day. A single-year turnaround, yet he remains remarkably humble and self-effacing. Or, as our pidgin-speaking friends would say, "He no get big head."

If anyone has reason to gloat, though, it's Coach Jones.

The UH team's almost-miraculous achievement gave this community something to cheer about after braving a decade-long recession full of job layoffs, bankruptcy filings and business closings. Finally, some good news to celebrate.

It's no wonder, then, that wearing my T-shirt in crowded venues manages to evoke some noticeable reaction.

I tested it out this weekend at the mall, teeming with stressed-out shoppers and window-gazers trying to dodge the rain. In honor of the festive yuletide season, I paired my dark green "June Jones for Governor" top with bright red flannel shorts. Ho, ho, ho.

Most people, I'll admit, didn't look at my shirt as they strolled past. But those who did notice the endorsement emblazoned across my tee did one of three things. They:

1) Drew a blank stare (obviously tourists or non-pigskin enthusiasts).

2) Tried to hide a bemused smile, but lit-up eyes gave away their suppressed mirth.

3) Made supportive comments like, "June Jones for governor! Hey, where do I sign up to vote for the guy?" or "I'd go for that idea" or (with apologies to the incumbent) "Well, he can't do any worse than who we have now."

One older gentleman proudly recounted his own football days at UH. He said that, back then, there were more folks on the field than sitting in the stands, but the players were still pretty good. Then the senior citizen struck the famous Heisman Trophy pose, and cracked up before waving goodbye.

Of course, I'm not seriously supporting June Jones for the state's top post in 2002 or any other time. Just because he's won several coach-of-the-year honors doesn't mean he should occupy the top-floor office of the state Capitol. Nor does he want to, if he's sane.

As Pat Summitt, coach of the phenomenally successful Tennessee women's basketball team, wrote in "Raise the Roof," a book on the Lady Vols' undefeated 1997-98 season:

"In the aftermath of the title, some people suggested I needed a bigger arena. There was even some talk of putting me up for governor. What those people don't understand is that I already have important work -- redefining what young women are capable of and how they compete."

Same for Jones. Now, which is more vital -- redefining what the young men of the UH football team are capable of and how they can compete in the stadium and later on in life -- while re-energizing the state in the process -- or haggling with the Legislature?

No worry, Ben. Your job's safe.

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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