football

FRONTLINE
League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis, Part 1 of 2

 

The National Football League, a multibillion-dollar commercial juggernaut, presides over America’s indisputable national pastime. But the NFL is under siege as thousands of former players and a host of scientists claim the league has covered up how football inflicted long-term brain injuries on many players. In a special investigation, FRONTLINE joins prize-winning journalists Steve Fainaru and Mark Fainaru-Wada to reveal the hidden story of the NFL and brain injuries, drawn from their book League of Denial.

 

PACIFIC HEARTBEAT
Next Goal Wins

 

In 2001, American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst football (soccer) team on the planet. This film is an inspirational story about the power of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and an object lesson in what it really means to be a winner in life.

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
In Football We Trust

 

This insightful and moving documentary transports viewers deep inside the tightly- knit and complex Polynesian community in Salt Lake City, Utah, one of the chief sources for the NFL’s influx of Pacific Islander players. Shot over a four-year period with unprecedented access, the film follows four young Polynesian men striving to overcome gang violence and near poverty through the promise of American football. The film is directed by Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn.

 

Pacific Heartbeat

Pacific Heartbeat, now in its sixth season, is an anthology series that provides viewers with a glimpse of the real Pacific – its people, cultures and contemporary issues.  The series features a diverse array of programs that will draw viewers into the heart and soul of Pacific Island culture.

 

Pacific Heartbeat Season 6 airs Saturdays in May 2017 on PBS Hawaiʻi.

 

A co-presentation of Pacific Islanders in Communications and PBS Hawaiʻi

 

Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson

Saturday, May 6, 2017, 8 pm

Visions in the Dark: The Life of Pinky Thompson is a Hawaiian story of pain and promise, of challenge and triumph and a story of leadership.  Sustaining a serious eye wound in Normandy during WWII that left him in the dark for two years, Myron “Pinky” Thompson emerged with a clear vision of his purpose in life.  Thompson would go on to be a social worker, mentor and revered leader in the Native Hawaiian community who left a legacy of positive social change, pride in Pacific heritage and a strong sense of native identity among Hawaiians that flourishes today.

 

Ever the Land

Saturday, May 13, 2017, 8 pm

Ever The Land explores the sublime bond between people and their land.  For the past 150 years, longstanding grievances over extreme colonization tactics have defined the Ngāi (tribe) Tūhoe and New Zealand government’s relationship.  In 2014, history was made when the Tūhoe’s ancestral homelands were returned, the New Zealand government gave a official apology, and Tūhoe built the first-ever “Living Building” in Aotearoa (New Zealand) as a testament to their values and vision of self-governance.

 

Mele Murals

Saturday, May 20, 2017, 8 pm

Mele Murals is a documentary about the transformative power of art through the unlikely union of graffiti and ancient Hawaiian culture.  At the center of the story are two renowned street artists – Estria Miyashiro (aka Estria) and John Hina (aka Prime) – a group of Native Hawaiian youth, and the rural community of Waimea.  Through their stories, Mele Murals shows how public art and Native Hawaiian traditions transforms the artists, students and community.

Next Goal Wins

Saturday, May 27, 2017, 8 pm

In 2001, the tiny Pacific island of American Samoa suffered a world record 31-0 defeat at the hands of Australia, garnering headlines across the world as the worst football (soccer) team on the planet. Next Goal Wins is an inspirational story about the power of hope in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds, and an object lesson in what it really means to be a winner in life.

 

 

Growing Up Gambling

 

This program illustrates how technology advancement makes it easy for students to engage in high-stakes gambling, taking viewers inside the brain of an online gamer and online gambler, telling the story of a student’s downward spiral into addictive online sports betting.

 

Public is invited to free preview of ‘Jackie Robinson’

Press Release Header

 

NEW KEN BURNS DOCUMENTARY AIRS APRIL 11-12 ON PBS HAWAII

 

This photo from the Palama Settlement Archives was taken when a young Jackie Robinson played for the Honolulu Bears, a semi-professional football team.

HONOLULU, HI – PBS Hawaii and Palama Settlement are co-hosting a free 40-minute sneak preview of Jackie Robinson, the latest documentary from acclaimed filmmaker Ken Burns.

 

Sneak Preview: Jackie Robinson
Wednesday, April 6 at 6PM
Palama Settlement
810 N Vineyard Blvd, Honolulu
RSVP: pbshawaii.org/jackie-robinson-event

 

This photo (left) from the Palama Settlement Archives was taken when a young Jackie Robinson played for the Honolulu Bears, a semi-professional football team.

 

The two-part documentary follows the story of the first African American to play in baseball’s major leagues. It makes its broadcast premiere April 11 (part one) and April 12 (part two) at 9:00 pm.

 

Jackie Robinson Day is on Friday, April 15.

 

Before the screening, Paula Rath, Palama Settlement Board of Trustees Emeritus, is scheduled to discuss Robinson’s ties to Hawaii. In 1941, Robinson stayed at Palama Settlement, when Waikiki hotels barred him entry because of the color of his skin.

 

“I’m very proud of Palama’s legacy of acceptance of all people,” Rath said in a statement.

 

The public can RSVP online at pbshawaii.org/jackie-robinson-event. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis, so guests are encouraged to arrive early. Free parking is available on-site at Palama Settlement. For questions, please contact Liberty Peralta at 973-1383, or lperalta@pbshawaii.org.

 

Download this Press Release

 

For questions regarding this press release
Contact: Liberty Peralta
Email: lperalta@pbshawaii.org
Phone: 808.973.1383

 

PBS Hawaii is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and Hawaii’s sole member of the trusted Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). We advance learning and discovery through storytelling that profoundly touches people’s lives. We bring the world to Hawaii and Hawaii to the world. PBSHawaii.org | facebook.com/pbshawaii | @pbshawaii

 

INDEPENDENT LENS
In Football We Trust

 

Premiere: Monday, February 1 at 10:00 pm
Encore: Saturday, February 6 at 8:00 pm

 

Harvey Langi, Leva and Vita Bloomfield, and Fihi Kaufusi are high school athletes in Salt Lake City, Utah. They all have the same goal: to play in the NFL. According to the film, Samoans and Tongans in the U.S. are 28 times more likely to play football in the NFL than any other ethnic group. But with family expectations, gang violence and stigma, it isn’t an easy path.

 

PBS Hawaii spoke with filmmakers Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn by phone about their first feature-length documentary.

 

This interview has been edited for clarity and contains spoilers.

 

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PBS Hawaii: This film was shot cinema verite style, which can be tough when you’re following your subjects in real time, not knowing how their story lines will pan out. Were there other subjects that ended up not making the cut?

 

Vainuku: We began with a whole different group. Originally, we started with Matt Asiata [now a running back for the Minnesota Vikings]. There was Thretton Palamo, who now plays rugby. I’d say the first subjects we clamped down were the Bloomfields and Harvey Langi. And then later, we brought in Fihi, who became our fourth subject.

 

With the other subjects that fell off, they have to be completely vulnerable and it is a lot of time you’re asking to spend with them. And for one reason or another, we weren’t able to include all those stories.

 

What was the greatest challenge in making this film?

 

Vainuku: I think one of the challenges is telling four stories in an hour and a half, and really being able to get the arc of the story in and get them all fleshed out. As a filmmaker, [doing this for] over five years and doing it independently, and for the first three or four years with basically no funding and getting these “nos” as far as trying to raising money. That was toughest, trying to tell this story that’s so important to you and just keeping up the funding and keeping yourself going and living in order to make this film.

 

Cohn: We had 600 hours of footage and to create a 90-minute film was incredibly challenging. A lot of times throughout the process, we got feedback to cut one of our subjects. That was feedback that we entertained, but we really wanted to be able to tell the stories of the Bloomfields, Fihi and Harvey.

 

As far as the funding challenges, Tony and I drew lines in the sand. Tony, wasn’t yours, like, you weren’t going to let your house go?

 

Vainuku: Yeah. I gave up my car, sacrificed a lot there. The one thing was to keep my home over making this film. Luckily, we got the film out just in time. [laughs]

 

Cohn: Thankfully! The hardest part of this was hearing no, after no, after no [while fundraising]. But in the long run, the process of not having financing for the first three years really shaped the way we went about making this film. We didn’t have the ability to have people doing sound or multiple cameras. It was just us. I think some of the intimacy comes from that really raw, gritty, pick up the camera and run-and-gun kind of shoot.

 

Vainuku: Yeah. One of the advantages to no funding is basically the freedom to do whatever. Nobody’s looking over your shoulder and telling you you have deadlines. We were able to really let the stories develop, and they went places that we would never have imagined. We couldn’t have written it better. Staying with them made all the difference.

 

Tony Vainuku and Erika Cohn

 

As the story lines progressed, what was something that hit home for each of you?

 

Cohn: I can’t tell you how much I learned from our subjects. The whole filmmaking process taught me a lot about not just filmmaking, but about life in general and about myself. That’s something that I didn’t expect. That’s a beautiful gift.

 

Vainuku: I related to all of the stories. It was really personal for me. There were parts of my life within the kids. The story for me, because it was so personal, was my younger uncle’s story. His fall from ever making it into the NFL; he ended up going to prison instead. So being able to tell that story through four kids instead of one – words can’t describe how close I am to all of these kids because of it, and what they were able to accomplish with their lives.

 

I can name one scene that was really, really tragic, that meant the world to me, when Leva had his incident and was arrested. That scene was completely shot in real time. Getting that event and knowing that it was going to change lives really, really helped that cause of what their family was going through, and what a lot of other Polynesian families are going through. These vulnerable moments that we found within these stories: We have Harvey breaking down and all the pressure that he deals with with his parents, and then you have Fihi with the spiritual side of all Polynesians. I think as a whole, Polynesians are pretty spiritual.

 

It’s hard to name one thing, but [the film] definitely came out better that I would have ever expected, as far as what it was inspired by.

 

What was it like as a filmmaker to see a story unfold tragically, but not be able to interact?

 

Vainuku: There’s definitely different levels of it, and as a filmmaker, it’s a little nerve-wracking. You’re not supposed to be there. In that exact scene, I was being pushed out, and the mother was pushing me in there and making sure everything was fine with me staying. As a filmmaker, you’re just double-checking that that button is hitting record the whole time.

 

On a personal level, it was hard. You spend so much time with these kids. And not only the kids, but their parents, too. I’m older than the kids, so I totally want the same thing for them that their parents want, which is for them not to make a mistake and ruin their lives long-term. So seeing that was pretty tough. I think overall as a director, you want the story to be completely honest and truthful and want them to trust you with their story, so you kind of have to make a point of staying out of it and not direct them, and not be a parent to them. In the Polynesian culture, they’re so respectful of their elders anyway, so if I was to treat them like, “Hey, you shouldn’t do that,” we would have had a different story, and I don’t think they would have opened up as much as they did. On all those levels as a filmmaker, being in that situation, you experience it differently and have to adapt quickly.

 

The family component is something that’s so universal, and it’s interesting seeing how family influence affects each of the boys.

 

Vainuku: It looks really natural as far as there being such distinguished story lines between the subjects. But there were a lot of redundancies within the families, too. As Polynesians know, a lot of our lives are still very close to our culture and very much the same. I think as filmmakers and being aware of that and really combing through their stories, we were able to really distinguish them and tell a whole story.

 

Cohn: Yeah, it’s like, how many senior proms do you show? There were a lot of parallel state championships that we filmed on different days, and events that were happening in their lives and hangouts with friends and family, and family home evenings.

 

With the Bloomfields, a lot of times, we’ll get feedback saying, “Oh, so they weren’t Mormon?” And they were just as Mormon as Harvey’s family, and they had family home evenings, but that wasn’t something we focused on as filmmakers. We were really trying to pull out the deeper issues that the Bloomfields dealt with, and that the whole culture would be represented [in the film], more than just how the media portrays us on the news. Each of their stories couldn’t have been told without the others.

 

The reason why we understand Harvey’s mission at the end, isn’t because we ever hinted at Harvey going on a mission. Because if you just watch Harvey’s story by itself, there’s no mission ever really being talked about until he actually goes at the end. The only reason we understand that is because Fihi is at that part of his life.

 

Fihi is injured in the film, but he is just so eager to continue playing for his team, and his coach lets him. When Fihi’s injury worsened, did you feel like that could have been prevented?

 

Cohn: I think that there are a lot of layers, and this is not unique to Fihi’s situation. It’s universal to a lot of student athletes. The game so filled with adrenaline, and so filled with a sense of camaraderie, and team participation. As Fihi says, “It’s my football family.” There’s a sense of guilt if you bow out or don’t contribute, and obviously, I think in the coach’s case, absolute neglect. But when you have a player that’s so anxious to get in the game and wants to be a part of it – Fihi was told he couldn’t play. He was the one ripping his bandages off to go back in. In that sense, there’s a lot of complexity.

 

Of course, the coaches are responsible and of course, there’s medical neglect. But there’s a lot of complexity. And having been a student athlete, if someone tells you to sit on the sidelines because of an injury, it’s the worst feeling in the world.

 

We don’t go into a lot of detail with Fihi post-injury, but his life totally changed, without that outlet, that part of his life that gave him so much, and what he was living for at that time. He had so much zest for life and gave him so much passion. He loved the game and loved that football family. His life outside of the film changed dramatically when football was no longer there.

 

InFootball_Comp_7-Still_Fihi89787

Vainuku: We definitely as filmmakers could have made a choice to really heavily blame it on the coaches, but I feel like the choices we made in that scene [where Fihi urges his coaches to re-enter the football game] – it’s showing you what these kids are doing to themselves.

 

Junior Seau died from CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy] but didn’t have one recorded concussion. And the reason for that is because of what we showed in that spirit that Fihi has, that football soldier mentality. We were able to show that but also show both sides, where the coaches are encouraging it or turning a blind eye to it. Like most of the film, we’re able to leave that up to the viewer and have them look at both sides.

 

Back at Sundance, Fihi was asked if he blames the coach after seeing the film, and he said no, he blames himself. He still takes full responsibility because he felt like it was his choice. I think a lot of these football players with brain damage feel the same way. With these high school players, we were able to show both sides that have to take that responsibility.

 

Do you still keep in touch with the four boys?

Vainuku: For the most part, yeah. Everybody kind of lives pretty busy lives, but definitely. I just went to a wedding of Leva and Vita’s younger brother. I talk to Harvey here and there, when he often calls me for advice with his college football career. Erika, you’re in touch with Fihi?

 

Cohn: Fihi and the Bloomfields a lot, yeah. And Vita.

 

How has the film changed their lives?

Vainuku: Leva’s mom tells me that it really did help Leva in a lot of ways. Leva still has his struggles that he deals with personally, but I think overall, people look to him as an example that he probably wouldn’t be trying to set without the film out there and people knowing who he is. And Harvey… Harvey was going to do what he was going to do, and he’s just as unpredictable. [laughs] I’d like to think that it changed him in a positive way.

 

How do you hope this film will address negative stereotypes about Pacific Islanders?

Vainuku: I have one friend that I grew up since I was seven years old, and he tells me after watching the movie, “You know, Tony, I feel like I’ve always been Polynesian because I’ve always been so close to your family, and I’ve always been around Polynesians all my life. But after watching this movie, I feel like I’m getting to know you for the first time.”

I feel like we get past all the stereotypes. You see a family deal with gangs, but you see that they’re human and they’re making mistakes. You see this kid that has this God-given talent, but you also see that he’s human, this human story. I feel like we’ve done a good job of breaking down stereotypes and really going into what this culture is, and some of the issues and struggles they deal with personally, and some of the culture clashes that they are dealing with, being sewn into America.

 

The film also succeeds in dismantling stereotypes about Mormons, as well. That’s an added dimension.

Vainuku: That they’re not all white and blonde. [laughs] I think that’s one, that there are brown Mormons in Utah. We have two of them go on missions, and they’re not perfect kids. They do go through some things and overcome some struggles in order to get out on their missions. In fact, I heard somebody say one time that the movie normalizes Mormons.

 

What’s next for this film?

Cohn: The film is being broadcast soon, which is really exciting, and we’re thrilled to have PBS as a partner on this, especially Independent Lens. Post-broadcast, the film will be available on SVOD and VOD, home video and on-demand platforms. We’ve also been asked to be involved in an outreach and engagement campaign, so we’ll be doing that through the next year, as well.

 

What’s next for each of you?

Cohn: I have two docs in development, one’s in production and one is in post-production. I also have a narrative feature in development.

 

Vainuku: I have two narrative projects that I’m working on. The first is a feature along the same lines that I’m tightening up the script on, and submitting to Sundance Labs in February.

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LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Bob Apisa

 

When he first came to Hawaii from American Samoa at the age of seven, Bob Apisa could not understand a word of English. Despite that initial difficulty, he excelled in sports at Farrington High School and won a national championship as a member of the Michigan State Spartan football team. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and went on to a successful career in Hollywood as an actor and stuntman.

 

This program will be rebroadcast on Wed., Aug. 19 at 11:00 pm and Sun., Aug. 23 at 4:00 pm.

 

Bob Apisa Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

So, forty-nine years before Marcus Mariotta helped to win the Rose Bowl, you were playing the Rose Bowl.

 

That’s correct. That’s correct. I was probably the first Samoan that played in the Rose Bowl; I’m not sure of that. When you’re raised in Hawaii, I mean, ethnically, I am of Samoan mix. Culturally, I am of Hawaiiana. When I’m raised with people here, they would have an influence on the way you look at things in life. And I knew that go up there, don’t shame your surname, don’t shame yourself, and don’t shame the state that you’re from. And that was the driving force for all of us who were up there.

 

Before Marcus Mariota, there was Bob Apisa, a Samoan recruited from Hawaii, who also made history on the football field nearly half a century ago. Bob Apisa, next, on Long Story Short.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in high definition.

 

Aloha mai kakou. I’m Leslie Wilcox. Bob Apisa was the first all-American college football player of Samoan ancestry whose achievements helped open the door for Polynesian players like Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariot. Apisa’s athleticism made him a college football star, and led him to a long career as a stuntman in Hollywood’s film industry. However, Apisa’s early years were a struggle. When he moved to Hawaii at the age of seven, he couldn’t understand a word of English.

 

Where were you born?

 

Leslie, I was born in Fagatogo, American Samoa. And that’s adjacent to Pago Pago, American Samoa. That’s the capital of American Samoa.

 

But you didn’t stay there, obviously.

 

Fortunately for me and my family—well, there were eleven siblings. I mean, I had ten siblings, rather. I was the eleventh. There eight boys, three girls. And my dad was in the military at the time; he knew that the only way to improve our lot in life was to bring us from Samoa to Hawaii, so that we can get into or be engrained with proper uh, education. I remember sixty-three years ago when I left American Samoa in 1952. And I remember pulling out of that port, and we never seen electricity; I’d never seen it. I lived in a house that was lit up by kerosene lanterns. And I never spoke English, could not understand a word of English. And as we left Samoa, two and a half weeks later, we were pulling in at Honolulu Harbor. And the landscape of the land was just lit up, and I was on deck, and I asked my brother, George—his name was Siosi. In Samoan, that’s George. And I said, Siosi, [SAMOAN LANGUAGE]. Meaning, there must be hundreds of, you know, kerosene lanterns out there lighting this place up. And he looked at me; he said, Papu. Papu is Bob in Samoan. He said, Papu, [SAMOAN LANGUAGE]. Meaning, Those are not kerosene lanterns; that’s electricity. I had never seen a switch. We never had an inside toilet; we had outhouses. So, the confirmation of just bringing this whole new world was there. And the reaffirmation of that was the effort that we had to go out and strike it on our own. My mom and my father went up to as high as eighth grade in Samoa. They didn’t have high schools. And that was one of the reasons why my dad brought us here.

 

What was the hardest thing for you? I can’t imagine. The culture, the language; what was the hardest thing?

 

Well, the hardest thing was cognitive skills, social etiquettes; things of that nature. I remember sitting in the classroom at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary, and when the teacher would gather the kids around, and she would read us a book, like, See Tom run; run, run, run. See Jane hop; hop, hop. And kids would laugh. And they would laugh, and that was my clue to laugh along with them, so I would feel like I’m one of them.

 

But you didn’t know why.

 

But I didn’t know why I was laughing. I didn’t know why I was laughing.

 

No special language lessons, or tutoring; nothing like that?

 

No; this was strictly through osmosis or just by being around the vicinity of being around English-speaking military dependents. Because I was brought up with military dependents at Pearl Harbor Kai Elementary. But I had teachers that helped me. I remember arriving in November, and starting school late. Because it started in September, and arriving, and then I had to re-acclimate myself. Then I got hurt. We were playing cowboys and Indians; I got shot in my left eye with a slingshot, and bled for quite some time. So, I missed more school. And as a result, I was set back a grade to repeat that same grade in order for me to get on. But I took that as an onus that I had some making up to do, but it was incumbent on me to make the move and make the motivation to move ahead.

 

Where did your family live, and what was it like growing up with ten siblings?

 

It was a very disciplinarian upbringing. My dad, I think in my lifetime, because he was a man of few words, but he’ll give you that look, and you’ll know exactly what he meant. But he was very soft-spoken. My mom was the general foreman; she ran the shop. So, she was very dedicated as a mother. She attended and made sure that we went to school. She took us there, and picked us up. You know, she was all-giving and all-supportive.

 

So, at the time, what public school did you go to?

 

I came out of Pearl Harbor Kai. I entered Aliamanu Intermediate when it first opened up. This, I think, was 1960. And I remember going to Aliamanu the very first day it opened up, and the Salt Lake City was just nothing but a salt lake and marshland.

 

It really was a salt lake then.

 

There were no buildings. There were no buildings; just that school there. But from there, I had to go on to ninth grade. They did not have a ninth grade; it was just up to eighth grade. And I had left the eighth grade, so I was going to the ninth grade. And what my brother Bill and I did—I mean, Bill was the catalyst in bringing me to the old Interscholastic League of Honolulu.

 

ILH.

 

ILH. And that was the premier competition. And I think because he felt slighted—I didn’t know any better, but he felt slighted that all the friends that we were playing around with when we were little kids all went to private schools. And he felt slighted.

 

The immigrants got left behind.

 

But the immigrants were left behind. And so, we concocted a story based on Bill’s theory that if we had a district exception from someone, that we can play at Farrington. Because Farrington was in the ILH. So, we asked my uncle, Reverend McMoore—that’s the Scotch part of my family, to use his residence address over at Republican Street in Kalihi. And he said, Yeah, by all means. So, that’s how we ended up at Farrington.

 

Bob Apisa says he didn’t play organized football until he entered the ninth grade at Farrington High School. He was a natural at that, and other sports as well.

 

You did things like you were playing a doubleheader in baseball, and the coach ran you over to the Punahou relays, and you took two events there, and you came back and you played your second baseball game.

 

Yes; that’s very true. This is my senior year, and it was the spring of my senior year. And I had fiddled around with the track team so I can work out and do my sprints, and just starting out, because I knew as a running back, I needed speed. But he needed a shot-putter, and he knew that in my sophomore year, I tinkered around with shot-putting, and it was only about, you know, two feet or three feet and a lot of rolls after that. But I didn’t know how to acquire the skills. So, we were playing Roosevelt at Moiliili Field, and he went up to my coach, Dick Kitamura, and he said, Dick, may I borrow Bob uh, in between the games? He said, Fine. I went up there.

 

And are you still wearing your baseball shoes?

 

I was wearing my baseball gear.

 

 

I took off my baseball top and put on a FHS tee-shirt or shirt, tank top, and I wore my baseball pants and my baseball leggings, and I borrowed a pair of tennis shoes. And these were the best shot-putters from all over the State. And they were all kinda [SNICKERS], you know, laughing and giggling.

 

How did that make you feel? Did that make you feel like—

 

Well, you know, I was laughing, myself. [CHUCKLE] But anyway, I said, Well, you know, I’m gonna do the best I can. My first throw, I said to myself, All I want to do is get some height on it. And I pumped it back, and I let go, and all I heard was the crowd going, Wow! Because I had just broken the State record that was there for eight and a half years later. I mean, previous. And I’m walking around like I knew what I was doing, but I was looking for the first dog poop that I may have stood on before I came into the ring. But, you know, my second and third throws, I mean, ba-boom, little dribbles here and there.   But the damage was done. I had won the shotput, I had set the State record for the shotput of fifty-six, three and three-quarters, and I broke—the gentleman’s name, I think it was Souza that was from Waialua in 1956.   So, I told the coach, I’ve got a second game, so put on my uniform, and went back to play the second game of the doubleheader.

 

How’d you do in the doubleheader?

 

I hit a homerun.

 

It was a good night; a very good night.

 

It was a good night.

 

Bob Apisa’s athletic achievements at Farrington caught the attention of dozens of college football recruiters. He chose Michigan State University, where he became part of a national championship team known for pioneering racial integration, and for having four future Hall of Fame players, all African American. And he earned a spot in Rose Bowl lore.

 

I was. You know, when you’re raised in Hawaii, I mean, ethnically, I am of Samoan mix. Culturally, I am of Hawaiiana. When I’m raised with people here, they would have an influence on the way you look at things in life. And I knew that go up there, don’t shame your surname, don’t shame yourself, and don’t shame the state that you’re from. And that was the driving force for all of us who were up there. You know, Dick Kenney and Charley Wedemeyer, when we were playing, we were ranked number one in the country. We would go to Ann Arbor to play University of Michigan or go down to Columbus and play Ohio State, or go down to South Bend to play Notre Dame; the top schools in the country. And we would look at each other, kust before we’d go out on the field, we’d look at each other. We’d do this. Meaning, when we get together, we say, Don’t make … you know what.

 

A.

 

A; of yourself. Because that’s how local boys related; don’t make A. So, we look at each other, and we knew. We were in tune.

 

And at the same time, Michigan State had an unusual makeup of its starters. I read that there were eleven African American starters, which was really unusual at the time, and you had far more players on the team. And then, there was you, who became the first all-American player of Samoan ancestry.

 

Yeah; yeah.

 

What a team.

 

Oh, it was a great team. You know, at that time in 1964, we had just legislated civil rights. In 1965, there was the Civil Rights Voting Act.

 

And that’s when you were a sophomore.

 

When I was a sophomore. And I looked at Bubba Smith, and Bubba Smith would look at George Webster, and George Webster would look at Dick Kenney. And we would look at each other … people of color. We said, You mean, we can actually vote for the first time? And so, there was a lot of history in that, that we had to encumber along the way. But the fact is, you look at things, and you learn from those experiences, and having African Americans who were great athletes. Being from the islands, again, you know, we had this mantra that you’re there to represent your people, you go out there and kick okole.

 

Here we are at the granddaddy of all the bowl games, the Rose Bowl, in—

 

So, forty-nine years before Marcus Mariotta helped to win the Rose Bowl, you were playing the Rose Bowl.

 

That’s correct. That’s correct. I was probably the first Samoan that played in the Rose Bowl; I’m not sure of that.

 

Bob Apisa, the fullback …

 

In 1966, I was a sophomore. And we were ranked number one in the country, undefeated, and we played UCLA, who we had beaten in the first game of the year. We were behind by fourteen to twelve, and I had scored a touchdown, and we went for a two-point conversion instead of having Dick kick a field goal or a point after. So, that made a difference. So, when we scored the second touchdown, we had to make up two points. And I was given that opportunity, and it’s been in lore, the Rose Bowl lore throughout the years that I was stopped by the one-yard line by Bob Stiles.

 

Apisa the fullback, and Bob is caught a yard short …

 

And Bob … I think he was a hundred seventy-pounds or two twenty-five. But he just threw himself at you; right?

 

Well, he was knocked out in the process. But the fact of the matter is, he did the job. And that’s the important thing. You know, you only had about four major bowls back in those days. And the Rose Bowl was the granddaddy of them all. That was The Big One. And that’s what I wanted to aspire to play in when I left Farrington, to go to a conference that would give me a shot at playing in the granddaddy of them all.

 

Ten months after that close loss in the Rose Bowl, on November 19, 1966, Bob Apisa played a part in history, taking the field in a matchup dubbed The Game of the Century. It was the first ever live TV sports broadcast in Hawaii.

 

I played in that game. And what happened was, prior to that game, throughout that week, people were just so jazzed up about the Game of the Century. We were both undefeated.

 

Okay. This was Michigan State, and …

 

Notre Dame. And Notre Dame at that time had one minority on their team. Just one. They had maybe twenty-seven in the entire enrollment, in South Bend. And that made them change and incorporate more people. But the fact that we were playing … I had a scroll with about three thousand names sent to me from my high school wishing us luck from Farrington. You know, those are cherished moments. And I remember when Dick Kenney and Charley and I got together, I said, You know, this is big-time, guys. I mean, I’m a kid from Samoa, Palama Housing to Kalihi Valley, and we’re playing big-time. People are gonna be seeing us live and direct. And that game, I think it was Governor Burns at that time, I believe it was, along with the Legislature, and they petitioned the FCC, the Federal Communications Commission, to see if they can see it live and direct. So, they got permission from them, and on the morning of November 19, 1966, there was a little satellite revolving around Sydney, Australia. The satellite was called Lani Bird. And they had that satellite beam the signal from Sydney, Australia, ricochet that signal across to Honolulu. And for the first time, you know, six hours earlier, people from Hawaii turned on their TVs, whether it’s an RCA, whether it’s the Zenith or Motorola, one of those brands, with two rabbit ears.

 

Small screen.

 

And with tin foil at the end of it, and with a small screen.

 

No cable television back then.

 

No cable TV. And they turned it on, they saw the splotchy black and white figures, and they finally saw the game, the first live telecast in the history of Hawaii. That’s one of the proudest moments of my life. I know I speak on behalf of my departed brothers, Dick Kenney and Charley Wedemeyer. That made us so proud. If there’s anything that we’re proudest of is that we helped facilitate this state into the 20th Century, as far as telecommunications is concerned.

 

After all the hype, The Game of the Century ended in a tie. Injuries sidelined Bob Apisa for much of his senior year at Michigan State. Still, he was chosen in the ninth round of the NFL draft by the late legendary coach, Vince Lombardi, who was then general manager of the Green Bay Packers.

 

That was a great honor for me, Leslie, because when you’re drafted by the world champions—they were just coming out of their second Super Bowl championship. And I was hoping to get onto an expansion team like the Miami Dolphins at that time, or Cincinnati Bengals. But lo and behold, I could hear vividly well Pete Roselle, the commissioner, announcing my name over the PA, and I can hear them saying, you know, Drafted in the ninth round, from Michigan State, bla-bla-bla-bla. And I can hear there’s cheering. And my heart sank in a way, because I wanted to go to a lesser team in developing. And here I am, I’m drafted by Green Bay, by Vince Lombardi. So, you know, people would see that trophy named after him on every Super Bowl, and eighty percent of the country probably don’t know who this man is. I was honored to be drafted by him. I shook hands with him, I talked to him, I negotiated my contract with him. And that’s quite an honor. The fact of the matter is, you know, to have that opportunity, to have just the experience of someone who is so iconic in football folklore. And when I see that, and I’m tracing myself back to 1952 when that young man who stood on that boat, who could not speak a word of English, and to where I am today, those are some of the moments that I’m most proudest of
You know, your career with the Green Bay Packers was fairly short, because I think you had serious knee damage; didn’t you?

 

Yes, I did. I signed a two-year contract with them. I lasted a year; they paid my year off. And I knew I was, you know, damaged goods to pursue an NFL career, because I paid that price during my collegiate career. But since, I’ve had prosthesis; I had three hip replacements, two on my right and one on my left, and a left knee replaced, so I walk with a shuffle and a distinct gait, and a gimp and a limp.

 

And other than that, you feel good?

 

Other than that, everything else is working.

 

You’re okay.

 

Being a fullback, always working to move the ball forward, Bob Apisa didn’t look back after the end of his football career. He went on to a thirty-three-year career as a stuntman and sometime actor, following a chance encounter with a Hawaii Five-O casting director.

 

I sat there, and there was this silver-haired guy with a beard, and he kept looking at me. And I’m saying, Well, maybe I owe him money or something.

 

So, he finally came over. And he says, I’m Bob Busch, I’m the casting director for Hawaii Five-O. The original Five-O. And he says, You’re Bob Apisa? I says, Yes. And he says, Have you ever done pictures before? And I says, The only pictures I’ve ever dealt with are Kodak cameras and stuff like that. But he says, No. So he said, I’m giving you a card. Why don’t you give me a call tomorrow. And I had a few days before I went back to Flint. And so, I called him on a lark, and he said, Why don’t you come in, I’d like to see you. So, I went down to the studio over by Diamond Head.

 

Were you excited?

 

No, I wasn’t excited. I didn’t know what why he wanted me to come in. Because I wasn’t involved with filming, I did not know what filming was. Once again, this was a first-timer. And as I’m walking in through the door, I noticed that there were about three big guys like me. And as I’m walking through the door, Jack Lord exits his office, and he’s looking right at me. He says, Oh, you’re the guy I’m looking for. I turned behind, and I’m wondering if he’s talking to the guy behind me, but there was nobody there. And then, Bob Busch came out and made the introduction. And so, Jack Lord said, Can you come tomorrow and do a little scene with us? I said, Wow, this thing is happening so quick. I mean, twenty-four hours later, I’m asked to come in another twenty-four hours later to do a jail scene with some people, some guys. And so, I said, Yeah, fine. You know, I didn’t mind doing that just to kill time and get a day’s pay. And he said something; the dialog between him and James MacArthur, Danno at that time. So, Steve McGarrett was saying this to Danno, and then it didn’t make sense. So, Jack looks at me; he said, Bob, when I say this, just say, No, I didn’t do it, or something to that effect. I don’t quite remember. And so, when he said this, then I said, No, I didn’t do it. I was immediately Taft-Hartleyed into Screen Actors Guild.

 

 

 

Forty-eight hours later, no experience as an extra or anything, I went from Point A to Point Z.

 

Well, you were comfortable with yourself; right?

 

I was comfortable with myself, because, you know, I thought it was a new adventure, and I said, Ah, why not. You know. And a week later, just before I left, or a couple days later before I left the following week, they asked me if I could take jeep and squib it and drive it. I said, Hey, it’s no big thing. And had bullet holes. I mean, squibbed it and came right up to the camera, and that was no big thing. And that’s how my stunt career started. I’ve done train falls, I’ve done horse falls, I’ve done horse stampedes, motorcycles, car chases, falling off of four-story buildings into water. You know, it’s all timing. But if you’re an athlete and you have the innate skills to adjust, to make your adjustment. Before I go on a set and they ask me to do something, I’ll turn ‘em down too.

 

So, this is 2015, and you are how old? Seventy?

 

I just turned uh, the milestone of seven, zero.

 

So, it’s a new stage of your life. What’s it like? I mean, you’re now officially retired.

 

Yeah.

 

I mean, that’s another kind of career, because you have to figure out how to spend your time, what relationships to keep, and which to invest time in, and where to go.

 

Well, I have a great relationship with AARP. No, I’m just kidding you. I find time to do things. I can wake up and read the paper, and I go and work out, and I come back and have lunch with friends. Or the wife and I can just get up and go.

 

Bob Apisa lives in Southern California. At the time of our conversation in 2015, he was producing a project dear to his heart, a documentary about the Michigan Spartans’ two-year run as national champions, and the team’s groundbreaking impact on racial integration in college football. Thank you, Bob Apisa, for sharing your story with us. For PBS Hawaii and Long Story Short, I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou.

 

For audio and written transcripts of all episodes of Long Stort Short with Leslie Wilcox, visit PBSHawaii.org. To download free podcasts of Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, go to the Apple iTunes Store or visit PBSHawaii.org.

 

People always point out that Bob Apisa came first. He was the first Samoan to really make a dent in the national scene. So, you were the Marcus Mariota of your time.

 

Marcus Mariota is a gentleman that when I looked at the way he carries himself, I’m proud of him. He represents America. He represents the cross-section of all ethnicity; all ethnicity. And he carries himself with humility, which is from here.

 

[END]

 

HIKI NŌ
Hosted by Kapaa Middle School on Kauai

 

This episode of HIKI NŌ is hosted by Leilehua High School on Oahu.

 

Top Story:
Students from Waianae Intermediate School on Oahu tell the story of Shardenei Luning, who has been competing in beauty pageants since the age of four and now shines as the only female member of the Waianae Tigers Junior Midgets Pop Warner football team. When confronted by a bully on the team, Shardenei learns to hold her own with both grace and grit.

 

Also Featured:
Students from H.P. Baldwin High School on Maui profile senior McKayla Wandell, who uses her story of growing up with a methamphetamine-addicted father to teach others about the dangers of the drug; students from King Intermediate School on Oahu feature how seventh-grader Aisha Yamamoto fell in love with being a disc jockey and now spins at all the school dances; students from Punahou School on Oahu highlight how freshman Kahi Bisho is combining his love of the ocean and photography into an artistic venture; students from Kealakehe High School in Kona profile Cathy Lewis, who is the longest active Red Cross volunteer in Hawaii County and was recognized as Volunteer of the Year in Hawaii County; and students from Waimea High School on Kauai turn the spotlight on the reopening of historic Waimea Theater, which has found new life as a community gathering place.

 

LONG STORY SHORT WITH LESLIE WILCOX
Skippa Diaz

 

Original air date: Tues., Nov. 2008

 

Legendary Farrington High Football Coach

 

PBS Hawaii honors legendary Farrington High School football coach Skippa Diaz, who passed away on August 30, 2014.

 

In this episode recorded in November 2008, Leslie Wilcox talks story with Skippa about relocating to Wisconsin to help care for his in-laws; his philosophy on football and life; the importance of education; and much more.

 

Skippa Diaz Audio

 

Download the Transcript

 

Transcript

 

Skippa Diaz is a big guy with a big heart who has had a big influence on the students he taught and the athletes he coached. He’s best known as the head football coach at Farrington High School for two decades, starting in the 1980s. Many who avidly followed his career are unaware that Skippa and his wife Mary spent more than four years caring for family members in Wisconsin. We caught up with Coach Skippa Diaz during a visit back to the islands.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox, produced with Sony technology, is Hawaii’s first weekly television program produced and broadcast in HD, high definition. It’s in Sony’s DNA.

 

Aloha no. I’m Leslie Wilcox of PBS Hawaii. Mahalo for joining me for another Long Story Short. Before Skippa Diaz coached football, he played football at Farrington High School in Kalihi, where he was an all-star lineman, and Oregon State University, where he earned all-conference honors, and even played for professionally in the Canadian football league. But as a boy, Skippa Diaz was too big to play football.

 

You were a big guy, even when you were a little kid; right?

 

Right. Oh, I was a bambula. Yeah. I mean, I was such a bambula that I loved to play sports, particularly football, but unorganized. When it became organized, they put weight limit on you. [CHUCKLE]

 

So how big were you?

 

I was bigger than the average bear. [CHUCKLE]

 

I heard you were two hundred pounds in third grade.

 

Yeah. [INDISTINCT] say about that. But you could be a hundred pounds [CHUCKLE] to play football, and I was a hundred eighty, two hundred. And so, I never got to play football when I was eight through when I was fourteen.

 

What’d you do instead?

 

I ended up doing a sport where they didn’t weigh me; I went swimming, and I swam at Palama Settlement. Jeff Yamashita, Lincoln, and several of the other guys, Larry Oshiro; they’re all from Palama Settlement. And I tell you, the guys that were around … you know, when we were young, we were looked at and said, No, he ain’t gonna make it. You know. But lo and behold, majority of them came out preachers, policemen, firemen. They were hardworking people. And ministers come up from the group that I was around. And it was affected by the people who were at Palama Settlement, or at the various schools that we went to. They helped mold us. And even my parents at home. So, education was always a major aspect for me, and I’m glad I did get into that area. Because it allowed me to do stuff with kids, and affect their lives somehow during their lifetime.

 

I would think that a big guy wouldn’t be that fast in the water, but I’m told you were fast.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

You were a competitive swimmer.

 

Well, I did okay.

 

Butterfly?

 

Fly was my stroke. But I liked the I.M. the individual medley, too. See, there’s two kinds of swimmers. There’s sinkers, and there’s floaters. I was a floater. And it’s easy, you know. When you’re buoyant, you stay on top of the water. When you’re a sinker, three-quarters, you gotta almost swim straight up to stay above the water. And I think I allowed that to make me do what I was doing.

 

Bill Smith, the world champion swimmer; he said that if you kept at it, you could have been an Olympic prospect.

 

Him and I were of the same mold, but yes, he said that. I don’t know. You never know, when you start a new track, you know. When I was fourteen, fifteen, I finished swimming and I went with football and track, because I think it was more popular at the time.

 

You know, some of the guys who go back a long time with you said … you know, I was asking, Why has Skippa been so effective with players and with young people? And they said, That’s because he came up the hard way. So, my question to you is, how tough is the hard way?

 

Well, low income, you know, and I had seven sisters and brothers, and Mama had hanai’d about another seven of us.

 

Living in Mayor Wright Housing?

 

Mayor Wright Housing; right.

 

How big was your place, with fourteen kids?

 

Was three in a bed and two in a bed. [CHUCKLE] Was a lot. And over the years, when one went, then another one came in. Mom took care of a lot of kids, besides us.

 

What did your dad do?

 

Dad worked at Pearl Harbor. He was working on the boats. And then, when he had his heart attack, he couldn’t work anymore, so he spent a lot of time going to the library. And I was the book carrier. The guy was a tremendous reader. He could read almost a book a day. I mean, those fat ones, too. But I was the guy who had to carry all those books from Mayor Wright, down Kukui Street to get to the library. And then, he ordered another one, and I’d pick ‘em up and go back. I was the carrier for that.

 

Did you mind doing that for him?

 

No, no; I didn’t. ‘Cause I found a lot of good solace in the library. Lot of different stuff; I got to reading a lot of things. I think that’s one of the reasons I became a history teacher, because of the amount of reading I did with Dad.

 

When your mom kept bringing more kids in the house, did you ever think, Oh, what about me, Mom?

 

A few times.

 

Or, how small is the dinner gonna be tonight? Did you ever have those thoughts?

 

Oh, yeah; indubitably. But somewhere, somehow, she managed to spread it all around, and everybody had something to eat. And I did a lot of different kinds of things. I shined shoes, and I helped wash cars, and stuff like that.

 

Did you keep the money, or did you give it to your family?

 

All went to Mom; all went to Mom. Everything went to Mom. I felt like I was contributing to the family that way.

 

Well, when you have a lot of kids, she has less time to divide up; right?

 

Oh, yeah; yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

So, you probably could get into some big trouble on your own.

 

Yes; yes. A person could do that real easily. And I got on the outskirts of that area, but I didn’t think I was getting into that kind of trouble. Mom and Dad were always very educationally inclined. They felt that we needed to go to school, and my aunts and uncles steered me in the right direction. I had coaches, and I had teachers that straightened me out. I had a principal at Central Intermediate, Mr. Manual Kwon. Oh, jeez; he let me know which way to go in the door and go out the door. And he got it across to me in no uncertain terms. I sort of liked that. I liked when somebody put a line down and said, Hey, you do this or you do that. And it’s nice; life is good when you have things that you know you gotta do, and then you do it.

 

It’s structure.

 

Structured; yes.

 

And that’s how you coach too; right?

 

I coach that way, too. You know, with the upbringing from my family, my sisters, as well as Mom and Dad, I made education the top of the rung. You do that first. If you come play here for us, you get your grades squared away, you make sure that you kiss Mama and Daddy every morning. You know, I required that. Sing the alma before and after practice, every practice. Before you know it, they get out on the field, and they’re doing stuff, besides themselves, for somebody else. And you get good results when you get a kid to take in those terms to go ahead and do it because of Mom, do it because of my friends. You got somebody pushing you to do something right, like Tom Kiyosaki, or Mr. Shigemi at Likelike Elementary, and demand that, and you know, you end up doing it. Mrs. Chun, sixth grade, Likelike Elementary; she was beautiful lady, but she put the law down, and I followed the law. If I did something wrong at school, when I went home, my mom and dad just chastised me for not being a good guy. So, I got my upcomings because of my family and the people in the community, and you know, that’s what made me do what I did. Go to college, play some sports, get an education, come back home. And my dream job was Farrington High School.

 

You went to OSU?

 

I went to Oregon State University.

 

And you know, my daughter went there, and so, I’ve traveled there in the last ten years. And today, it still is a very white bread university. How did you do over there? Did you feel at home?

 

Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, there was a large community of local kids.

 

There’s a Hawaii Club, in fact; right?

 

Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah. All up and down the coast. Oregon competes with Oregon State for the luaus, who’ll do a better luau. But we had a lot of kids that you could fall back on when you get lonesome for home. And Rockne Freitas and I were going to school together at the time. And then, we had all the other kids that we knew from Maui, from Molokai, that was going school over there. Made it easier for us to make that transition.

 

Throughout his life, Skippa Diaz has navigated some pretty big transitions. After earning bachelors and masters degrees in education from Oregon State University, Skippa returned to Hawaii. He taught and coached at Washington Intermediate, and at Kalani, Waialua, Mililani, and Farrington High Schools. Skippa’s wife Mary, also a lifelong educator, was vice principal at Waialua High and Intermediate, and at Roosevelt High School. In 1995, a major health crisis gave the two of them a wake-up call, so to speak.

 

You’re a big guy, but you used to be a bigger guy.

 

Yeah.

 

In physical stature.

 

Yeah; yes.

 

What happened?

 

Well, I just ate too much, and I had a condition called sleep apnea. And I didn’t realize I had that. I just thought I was … I thought I was sleeping at night, but I get up in the morning, and I was tired. And this went over about a six, seven-year period. And ended up, I had not a heart attack, but congestive heart failure.

 

Because of lack of oxygen?

 

Because of lack of oxygen. And the way I got that one was, when you get sleep apnea, your air passage closes up. And when it does, you ain’t got no air coming in. And I took a sleep study after I got into the hospital. They took me to Kuakini Hospital to give me a sleep study, and what I found out was, when I’m sleeping—they have this thing called episode. It’s a period of time when you don’t take in oxygen at all. And usually, the episodes range from twenty to maybe sixty times at night that you stop breathing. And I think when I was there, I had thirty-seven times when I stopped breathing for almost two minutes per episode.

 

It’s a life-threatening problem.

 

Oh, all the way; all the way. See, oxygen gotta go all through your body so you can function well. And the darn thing was breaking down in my liver and my lungs, and all of that.

 

And you were toughing it out, thinking, I don’t feel so good.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

 

But I’m going to work.

 

I going, I going. I going do ‘em, I going do ‘em. But I was at a meeting one day, and George Kamau was our trainer. And he looked at me and he says, Hey, something wrong with you. He took me in his truck and took me down to the hospital, and they diagnosed me and said, Hey, this is what you got, man.

 

And they told your wife.

 

Told my wife; yeah.

 

Almost make-die-dead.

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah. He almost passed. But somehow, you know, they helped me; it’s possible for me to stay alive. And that was in 1995.

 

Did you feel like you were …

 

Oh, I …

 

I mean, you must have been getting so little oxygen and feeling so exhausted.

 

Oh, yeah.

 

And then carrying this weight around.

 

Oh, yeah. That was big-time scary. [CHUCKLE]

 

In fact, I don’t know if they gave you that great a chance.

 

No, no. They thought it would be, you know, this guy; better bring the priest in.

 

Yeah.

 

But somehow, it didn’t occur. I don’t if the Lord said, Hey, wait. [CHUCKLE] Thank you, thank you.

 

What has changed, then? You’ve lost weight. That’s been the plan, right, to lose weight?

 

Yeah, yeah, yeah; yeah, yeah. And maintain one good healthy lifestyle. And for me and the wife, we’ve retained, at least for the last four years that I’ve been away from home, we made it a point to swim a minimum of three times a week. And that really helped.

 

How are you getting the oxygen you need?

 

With sleep apnea, what they do, they give you a—certain ways that they can do it. Mine was, I have a machine called a CPAP machine. CPAP; acronym for continuous positive air pressure. And it’s like a machine that’s operation reverse of a vacuum cleaner. Instead of sucking the air in, it blows the air out, and it’s a box about this big. And it has a flexible hose, and then some Velcro to wrap around your forehead. And then, you have what I call the opihi. Now, I promote that to anybody I know who has sleep apnea, or they snore a lot. That’s a big sign. I tell them, Hey, go get one sleep study, and if the stuff is at the level it is, go use the CPAP machine.

 

Some people who die, quote, in their sleep; that’s sleep apnea.

 

Yeah; it’s sleep apnea. It’s doing that. And it’s really something that can be avoided.

 

By 2004, Skippa Diaz was helping to lead the City’s Parks Department, when another health concern led to another major transition for him and Mary. Not his own health, but that of Mary’s parents and Mary’s disabled brother Butchie. Coincidentally, Skippa had a brother-in-law and a brother named Butchie. This transition took the couple to Wisconsin for more than four years.

 

My wife found out while we here that Mom, Dad, and Butchie were going to be put in a home, because Mom and Dad couldn’t take care of Butchie.

 

They were in their nineties.

 

They were in their nineties; yes. Mom was ninety-four, and Dad was ninety-five. And my wife told me, You stay here, because I had a pretty decent job with the City and County.

 

Deputy Director of Parks.

 

Right, right, right. And she said, she’s gonna go up there and take care all three of them. And it took me a month, and I said, Timeout, I cannot do this, I gotta be with my woman. And I said, I’m going up, too. So, I retired, and then I went up. And jeez, I had a good job. But then, I found out that I don’t care what job you got, if the person you love with all your life is not with you, it’s a miserable life. So, I went up there.

 

Had she already gone when you figured that out?

 

Well, you know, she was always with me, so I figured, I can handle. Mm-mm. I couldn’t handle. [CHUCKLE] So, I went up there. And then, that’s when I just had a tremendous revelation that, you know, when you take care the people you care for, when they need the help, there is gonna be reward. Not financial, but you know, your brain going stay right, you’re gonna be able to go to sleep real easy, you know, when that’s finished. But the journey took four years, four and a half years, but it’s just something you do. And I feel real good that I went and did that.

 

And it wasn’t a hobby. It was a fulltime, twenty-four/seven commitment.

 

Twenty-four/seven; yeah. That’s what it is. And it was my wife, too. At first, she was taking care of three. You know, just to take care of one, twenty-four/seven, is a mean chore. You put two, or three. Oh. So, you know, I had Butchie twenty-four/seven. Mary was taking care of Mom, and then we both could take care of Dad because he was just using the two canes. He went from the two canes to the walker, from the walker to the wheelchair. And same thing with Mom. You could see, you know, in the tail end of their lives, they have certain things they’re gonna do, and that digression is gonna end up with them leaving you. But, whoo; couldn’t beat it.

 

Yeah.

 

All the money in the world ain’t gonna make me want to do something other than what I did these past four years.

 

There’s this great picture of you and Butchie.

 

Oh. Yeah, yeah. This one has always … [CHUCKLE] this guy, he used to smile, and he used to tap me on my shoulder when I was going too fast. You know, I’d be swimming in there with him. Yeah; this guy was … he was just the apple of my eye.

 

Downs Syndrome, autism.

 

Yes.

 

He was in a wheelchair.

 

He broke his hip, and he was just confined to a wheelchair.

 

I notice you never say brother-in-law. He’s your brother.

 

He’s my brother. From the day I saw him, I said, I get two brother Butchies. Was really a great feeling to have both of them. But this one here, he was something else. Dad was something else, too. The guy was ninety-nine years old, and he could remember stuff. I mean, I’m sixty-three, sixty-four; I’m forgetting stuff. And the guy was ninety-nine, and we’re talking about a certain person. I don’t know the guy’s name; boom, he remembers the name. We’re playing cards, and he tells me what my score is. And I said, I got this much. We’re playing cribbage. He says, No, you got two more points. I go, Ah.

 

[CHUCKLE]

 

And he’s correct. And he’s ninety-nine years old; he was just superb. When he got sick, you know, hard to slow down the movement of that. But he was a darling. He was one father.

 

You know, sounds like you live your life so that you don’t have regrets.

 

Oh, yeah. Yeah. You going get small stuff in the way, but you gotta put your heart in one position, and find out where that bugga aiming, and you go that way. And it comes out pretty good.

 

And your heart’s always right?

 

So far; so far. With my wife, with these guys, yeah. With my family, yeah.

 

Do you think after being married for decades already, you got to know her better then?

 

Oh; yeah, yeah. That’s the part that came full circle. I says, Hey, this is the right one, I got. You know? I don’t know if she’s saying that about me, but [CHUCKLE] as far as that is concerned, it’s really something. Boy, if I had to pick a thing I did that was pretty good, it was that. To be with my wife from now until whenever. I’m totally involved in what she does, and know she is in mine. From day one.

 

It seems that Skippa Diaz takes pride in everything he does. Whether it’s caring for family, or molding young people, or competing in athletics, he puts his whole heart into it. His warmth and energy can light up a room and deeply touch people. Evidence of that? Half a dozen teachers at Farrington now were his students, practically the entire coaching staff for his football team played for him. And his secret? He’s got heart.

 

I developed an acronym; and the acronym was spelled HEART, H-E-A-R-T. H refers to humility, the ability to listen to another person and bite your tongue if he’s saying something that’s different than what you want. But being humble is a quality that is really, really sought after for a lot of people, but never acquired. But humility is a good one. E, education. That one was very, very significant in my family’s upbringing. A, attitude. A positive attitude, making sure that whatever the goal, or whatever the project, you set yourself out to be positive and get the darn thing done. R, responsibility. You gotta be responsible for all the things that you do, and sometimes for the things that your friends and your loved ones are doing. But being responsible in that manner has some beautiful connotations that grow from it. And the, T, of course, stands for team, team sports. So, I always tried to slip those five things in on the kids in conversations and developments, and it helped; it helped. And I always wanted to try to emulate Lorin Gill King. I don’t know if that many guys know him now, but he was one of my favorites. And like Tom Kiyosaki, all these guys, they gave me the juice to go ahead and try to do something good. And if you can do it for a person, that’s pretty neat. And the kids, you know, when I walk down anywhere in the community, and I hear that word Coach, I think that’s better than Skippa. And it’s really like one parent would feel, the goodness, because of what the kid is doing. I just pop my buttons all the time. Right at Farrington High School right now, I got about six kids that played for me, that are teachers over there. Now, what better thing that you can see than a kid make the circle and follow you down the road? And it’s nice to see that stuff happening by people that I worked with and coached. That’s good stuff.

 

And all of his athletes remember his crushing handshake at their first meeting, letting them know in a friendly way from the get-go, he’s nobody to trifle to with. Skippa Diaz came up the hard way, and came out on top, using strength of heart and strength of mind to inspire others all along the way. The latest move for Skippa and Mary; transitioning back to Hawaii after caring for their ohana on the mainland. I’m so glad Coach Skippa Diaz stopped by PBS Hawaii to join us for this Long Story Short. Mahalo piha, Coach. I’m Leslie Wilcox. A hui hou kakou.

 

Long Story Short with Leslie Wilcox is produced in HD by PBS Hawaii with Sony technology. High definition; it’s in Sony’s DNA.

 

So, the people in Wisconsin call you Skipper.

 

Yes.

 

And do you forget sometimes and say, Oh, are you pau?

 

Yeah; oh, yeah. When I start talking fast, my friend up there, all the guys up there, they say, What language are you speaking? But they know pau, or we go. We go; you know. Ainokea. [CHUCKLE] They pick up on that. But good people in Wisconsin. At least the area I came from, you know, they’re always watching you, but they know you. Oh, boy; they’re just like Hawaiians, but speaking English. They’re real good people.

 

What do they call the aloha spirit in Wisconsin?

 

The Wisconsin spirit. They call it that. That’s what they do.

 

They really do?

 

Oh, yeah, yeah.

 

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