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Tom Hanks, Forrest Gump

Looking like Forrest Gump
By Malamute

Although I live in Southern California, I was born in Seattle and grew up there, at a time when telling another kid to say P-I backwards was the raunchiest joke around.

My dad always figured out a way to get us into the Huskies' games. He'd stand next to the ticket booth looking like Forrest Gump, a confused look on his face, the southwesterly wind standing his thick, wavy hair straight up. Somebody always sold us tickets at face value. I learned that trick from him.

I'll always remember that Oregon game (1948). It was cold and rainy and the field was a sea of mud (Astroturf was installed 20 years later). The men around us drank from their flasks, smoked cigars and occasionally yelled, "Go Huskies." During the fourth quarter, I asked my dad why that guy from Oregon still had a white uniform, and he told me that his name was Norm Van Brocklin. "He just throws the ball." Bob Waterfield (UCLA) played for the Rams then, and I wondered why he hadn’t played for the Huskies with a name like that.

All of the seats were uncovered until Harvey Cassill (Washington’s AD, 1947-1956) built the first of the upper decks in 1950. People called it Cassill’s castle, telling him he’d never fill it with fans. He told them he’d build another “castle” on the other side some day.

We got used to losing and firing coaches at Washington in the early fifties. You were a temp if you coached at Washington in those days.

Jim Owens (1957-1974) came along about the time the NCAA changed the rules, limiting the number of substitutions you could make in a quarter. Owens conditioned his players better than the others did, and we began to hold our own with the L.A. teams. I took a class with Bob Schloredt, who was a pre-dent as I recall. A photographer from the P-I took pictures of him standing next to a lab experiment, and told me to get out of the way. Schloredt took us to the Rose Bowl that year (1960), and we beat Wisconsin (44-8). After that game, they said that Owens walked across the lake to get to his office from his Mercer Island home.

As one of Washington’s greatest football coaches, Owens (99-82-6) had charisma, charm and acumen. Having a James Arness (“Gunsmoke”) kind of image, his good looks and personality were made for TV. Everybody who met him was captivated by his personality. When he was a student at Oklahoma, the coeds on campus flocked after him. He said he never looked back.

I attend most of the Husky games when they play in L.A. I remember one in particular (1969). It was a beautiful day at the Coliseum as my wife and I waited for the Huskies to get off the bus. I waved to Owens as he got off and he waved back, a quizzical look on his face, wondering whether I'd played for him at one time or another. I tried to look the part, even though I hadn’t.

I put on my Forrest-Gump face and landed two great seats for the game. UCLA gave us an old fashioned shellacking that day (57-14). The NCAA had changed the rules again, and Owens found it hard to compete with the California schools. How history repeats itself.

After Owens left, Don James (1975-1992) came along about the time the NCAA changed the rules again, giving him a shot at walking across the lake. The Dawgfather, as he is called now, never needed a life preserver until they scuttled his ship.

I remember one game under him in particular. A friend of mine from UCLA gave me a field pass for a game against the Bruins in the Coliseum. The Huskies took a terrible pasting that day (31-0), but I stood as close to the Huskies' bench as I dared--a lot of the players were unhappy--wearing my Husky T-shirt proudly. We managed to go to the Rose Bowl that year (1982), and I was there. We beat Iowa 28-0.

Right now I’m trying to figure out a way to get into the UCLA game in November. So far I haven’t had any luck in getting tickets. My dad’s passed away now. I guess I’ll be standing next to one of the ticket booths all alone, with the southwesterly wind standing my white hair straight up, a confused look on my face. I’ve got that Forrest-Gump face down pat.

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