Torii Bowl trouble brewing?
Published: August 11, 2011
Yokota Air Base stands at the cusp of a really, really great opportunity should its Warriors football team beat the Misawa Jets in the U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League North Division title game on Saturday.
Disclaimer: Not to say that it will happen, of course; Misawa ran the North Division, table this season and rallied to beat Yokota in both of their encounters this season and earning host rights to the Torii Bowl championship game on Aug. 20.
If Misawa beats Yokota on Saturday, no muss, no fuss, South Division champion, either Foster or Joint Task Force, must travel to the northern hinterlands to play for the league title.
But should Yokota win Saturday's game, a scheduling conflict may ensue.
You see, Yokota Air Base is scheduled to host its annual Friendship Festival on Aug. 20-21. Command is well aware that the Warriors would be in line to host the Torii Bowl the same weekend, yet has passed the word to its players: "You WILL work the Friendship Festival that weekend."
The Warriors would have no problem pushing the game back a week to Aug. 27. But Foster and JTF would, since they face duty commitments that may take most of their rosters off island for at least two weeks, perhaps longer.
That could conceivably push the Torii Bowl back into late September, when high school football season is well underway and referees are stretched thin covering two Kanto Plain games per weekend.
But there is a way Yokota Base and the Warriors could come up with an arrangement that would be mutually satisfying:
Hold the Torii Bowl during the Friendship Festival at 6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 20, at Yokota High School's Bonk Field.
Could you imagine how big a crowd, Americans and Japanese, you would get when two teams of big, beefy American football players square off with the league's biggest prize on the line?
We're only talking 30 to 35 bodies donning football gear, compared to the 3,000-odd contingent of GIs and hundreds more civilians who remain to work the festival, booths, security, traffic, etc.
There is a precedent for Yokota hosting a football game during the Friendship Festival. Back in 1999, before a joyous crowd of more than 2,000 at the late, lamented Wilkins Park (which they're turning into a parking facility), the then-Yokota Raiders easily handled the Yokohama Harbours, a Japanese team, on an 80- by 40-yard field.
To Col. Otto Feather, 374th Airlift Wing commanding officer, I ask you: Is keeping the Warriors players, assuming they beat Misawa on Saturday, from playing the Torii Bowl on Day 1 of the Friendship Festival, is keeping them out of football uniform really worth sacrificing what could be a centerpiece event of the festival, and throwing the rest of the USFJ-AFL's season into turmoil?
Please keep that in mind. You hold the key to solving all issues in your hands. Please ... make the right choice.