By Rich Figel
I really should be working on my next Career Changers TV show, but after going to the UH-USC game yesterday afternoon, I wanted to share our experience before the memory fades away. It reminded me of the first Hawaii football game I saw against the mighty Michigan Wolverines in 1986, when I was a guest of Paul Sheriff, the son of the late UH Athletic Director, Stan Sheriff. At the time, I was working with Paul on a direct mail catalog of clothes and accessories for wheelchair-bound people. Paul was a star wrestler in college, then lost the use of his legs as the result of a car accident and began sewing his own clothes because he had special needs. It was a good concept, but we just didn't have enough capital to make it work.
Anyhow, that game was the first time I heard the "Let's go Bows!" and "Rain... Bows" call and response cheers live, surrounded by over 42,000 fans, mostly attired in bright green shirts with the colorful rainbow logo on apparel and the bright green artificial turn down below. I had only been in Hawaii for a year, but being part of the UH football experience made me a Bows fan for life. The record will show UH lost that game 27-10. However, much like yesterday's game, the final score doesn't tell the whole story. Coach Dick Tomey's team was in it until the fourth quarter, thanks to a tough, gritty defense that was the hallmark of his teams... as was the conservative nature of his offense back then. They didn't score a lot of points. Then again, they didn't turn the ball over a whole lot either, which was the UH's downfall yesterday.
As the Bows took a 5-3 lead in the second quarter, I looked at my wife and thought, this is why you have to be in the stadium. I was wearing the old shirt pictured above, which I bought when the UH was going through its worst season ever, after enjoying some of their best seasons under Coach Bob Wagner. Like Tomey, Wags also had some terrific defensive players that rose to the occasion, even when they faced much bigger, stronger opponents. To me, UH football has always been about playing with an underdog mindset, and as a former defensive back myself, nothing gets me more pumped than seeing 11 guys stuff the offense on third down plays and gutsy goal line stands. Sure, I know a lot of fans from the June Jones era and Paul Johnson spread option days under Wagner, were spoiled by the explosive offensive displays those teams were capable of. Still, it always comes down to stopping the other team from scoring one more point more than your offense.
And this is why I believe I saw one of the greatest displays of defense in UH football history last night. Time and again, they made stops, then had to go right back out and do it again after the offense sputtered or turned the ball over. Take a look at the roster and compare the sizes and pedigrees of the USC offense against the UH defensive players. On paper, the Bows had no business being on the same field. Yet to keep up that level of intensity -- and football smarts -- even as your offense demoralizes the entire stadium by squandering scoring chances, says something about their character. They made me proud to be a Rainbow Warrior fan.
Other great UH defenses were aided by Hawaii offenses that were at least able to run time off the clock, even when they didn't score many points. They had no such help last night. It was pure gut check. All I will say about the offense and Monday -- er, Friday morning quarterbacking complaints is that if the team executes the plays as they're drawn up, nobody would be questioning the play calling or the schemes they run. Whether it's the spread option or run and shoot, it still boils down to hitting hard, playing smart -- and playing with heart. If the defense's attitude starts to rub off on the offense, I think this team is going to surprise a lot of folks. Then again, I'm an Optimistic Fan!
Speaking of Retro Night, somehow I missed the news that UH has actual plans for a real "Retro Night" at the Nov. 16 home game against old WAC rival San Diego State. My wife spotted that on the game program they were handing out, so I Googled it when I got home and found a press release from April stating the UH will be wearing "special retro uniforms." For years, myself and others have been calling for a Throwback Night just as NFL teams and other colleges have been doing for awhile. I just hope SDSU doesn't bring any "retro" type players like Marshall Faulk, who ran over, around, past the UH defenders as if they were playing in quicksand. He was "special," as Coach Wags put it. BTW, noticed many fans -- young and old -- sporting the bright green Menehune Warrior retro t-shirts at the game. Right on.
Last bit of "pigskin" related news, sort of: the cat is out of the bag -- or I should say, pig as in "The Pig & The Lady" has apparently officially announced they will be moving into the former Lemongrass Cafe at the Pacific Gateway Center location on North King Street. In my last blog post, I mentioned a popular farmers market food booth was working on details with PGC, and today Pacific Business News carried an item about that (click here). PGC has also been doing very popular pop-up kitchens at Lemongrass Cafe the past year that feature different ethnic cuisine, such as authentic Burmese fare, and from what I understand TP&TL will be overseeing future pop-up dinners. There's a great story behind their name too that I'll share in a future post!
For daily viewing times of Career Changers TV, please visit our website. You can also watch video segments from past and current episodes on the CCTV YouTube Channel. Have a great weekend -- and please, support the UH football progam by buying tickets to the remaining home games! The way they performed against USC, these Bows deserve a full house. Oh... I forgot to mention, when I woke up yesterday morning and looked out our kitchen window, guess what I saw above Kawainui Marsh? Yep, a rainbow.