By Rich Figel
I was out of town when the news broke last week that UH Athletic Director Ben Jay announced the men sports teams would be the Rainbow Warriors instead of just Generic Warriors, which surprised some local sports pundits who had dismissed efforts by Bows diehards to keep the name and symbol alive. In the comments thread on my prior post about BJ's original dictum, I wrote that this is why we love sports: sometimes, even when it appears the game is lost, a player -- or a fan -- steps up and inspires their team to rally. It ain't over till it's over, as Stephen Chinen proved when he organized the rally to save the Rainbow... a rally that only drew about 50 supporters in person, but got widespread coverage in the local media. It also generated passionate discussions around town and on blogs, the electronic version of the water cooler.
Ben Jay said it wasn't the rally or Stephen's public criticism that changed his mind, and pushed back against speculation that it had anything to do with big time donors threatening to close their checkbooks. Let's be real though. He did it because he felt a groundswell of negativity building, and he wanted to stem the tide of the Mainlander-Thinks-He-Knows-Best sentiment that was beginning to spread. So Ben did what good leaders do: he listened and changed course. In the business world, they call it The Pivot. When a new venture encounters problems, it's possible to turn bad feedback into positive results by focusing on what the customers say they don't like or what they really want.
Yet there is a bigger lesson in all this. When I first saw the Star-Advertiser article about the "stunning reversal" on the Rainbows name, my first thought was of the "One Voice" speech that was part of Barak Obama's 2008 presidential campaign. It's the story of how one woman fired up a roomful of supporters, and that group went out and motivated others and so on, until an entire nation of people were inspired to elect our first African-American President. I also flashed back to the iconic image of the Unknown Protestor blocking a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square back in 1989. Granted, comparing Stephen Chinen to Tank Man is a stretch, considering the stakes involved... but it shows the power one person can have through their actions. The identity and fate of the lone Chinese protestor isn't certain. However, that image will live on forever as a symbol of resistance to authoritarianism. And now, so will the Rainbow, as a symbol of inclusiveness -- a reminder that the University of Hawaii represents all of us in the Aloha State.
Speaking of images and symbols -- art, in other words -- there is another area where commerce merges with entertainment in the arena of UH sports: music. Another legacy of the June Jones Era was his decision to ditch the "Hawaii Five-O" song to herald the entrance of the football team just before kick-off, in favor of something that sounded like a grandiose Consolidated Theaters movie trailer, replete with conch shells and drums, which blared while players ran out of a giant inflatable helmet with huli-huli chicken smoke billowing out of it. Heck, I appreciate showmanship, but the whole thing turned into a circus. (Coincidentally in my next Career Changers TV show, which begins airing June 1 on OC16, we will introduce you to a showman whose parents were part of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.)
Anyhow, I've always felt UH sporting events would be more fun if they allowed fans -- especially students -- to submit playlists or song suggestions for pre-game warmups before football, basketball and baseball games. There would be guidelines, such as no profanity or anything that is R-rated. Themes could be tied into visiting opponents or special promotions. Other than that, the main criteria would be it should be danceable or something you can clap to. Stuff that Aunty and Uncle would get up and move to at a family party. With that in mind, I'm offering Ben Jay an olive branch with a song that could serve as a theme for UH sports in the coming years. It's a catchy, upbeat tune by the Black Eyed Peas called "One Tribe" ... worth the download on iTunes:
One tribe, one time, one planet, one race
It's all one blood, don't care about your face
The color of your eye or the tone of your skin
Don't care where you are, don't care where you been...
We are one people ... one tribe... one planet... one race... one love
And too many things that's causing one to forget about the main cause...
There's one tribe y'all, one tribe y'all
One tribe y'all, we are one people...
Funny thing. The Sears refrigerator repair guy stopped by yesterday to fix a dripping water dispenser, and noticed I had a plastic cup under it with the old Menehune Rainbow Warrior logo (from June's first season, I think). He told me he loved that logo and just happened to see it in the Ward Rainbowtique last week, so he bought it. I told him about the comments posted on this blog in support of the old nickname. On the way out, he shook my hand, smiled and said, "Go Bows!"
So much for Lost Causes, eh?
You still have a week to catch the Tetris episode of Career Changers TV, featuring an interview with Henk Rogers and a segment on his new Blue Startups accelerator program for budding entrepreneurs. Click here for daily viewing times or visit the CCTV YouTube Channel to see videos from past and current shows.