The talk is tough. The lines are drawn. And it has nothing to do with elections.
This time it’s the annual Etes vs. Bruzers football game between current female law students and the women who preceded them at UH Mānoa’s William S. Richardson Law School and who are now respected attorneys and judges in the community.
The Ete Bowl will be played on November 18 at 1 p.m. at the UH football practice field behind the softball diamond in the quarry area. Following is a post-game tailgate potluck, with food provided by the two teams.
This year’s Ete captain, Christilei Hessler, already knows that it’s going to be a tough battle. “It will be back and forth for the entire game,” said Hessler of this famous dust-up between law students and their more senior adversaries. This is the 34th year of the football grudge match and Hessler is predicting a rousing turnout with as many as 300 fans hollering for the teams.
Added Hessler, who reviews plays and the team playbook all week long, “We’ve been practicing since the second week of school. We try to stress that it’s flag football but it gets pretty tough out there.” Yet Hessler predicts the Etes are definitely going to win. “But it’s going to be close,” she cautions. “It’s going to come down to the very end.”
The Ete Bowl is a Richardson Law School tradition that began way back in 1978 as a friendly grudge match between the second year women and their third-year counterparts. The first game turned out to be such a hit, that the annual battle continues to rage on every year.
First Circuit Court Judge Rhonda Nishimura remembers playing as an Ete back when she was at the Law School in the mid-1980’s. These days she may turn out to watch, but she’s not about to get into the action on the field anymore.
The football game and the weekly practices help reduce stress from long hours of studying, and they build lasting friendships. Hessler says that she began playing football with the women’s team in her first year and the friends she made are still some of her best buddies.
“It was just stress relief after being in class all week,” said Hessler of that first year. “I’d never played football before and most of the girls have never played before, but I’ve always been part of a team. So when I came here and saw how much this was part of the school, I was able to be part of a team again.”
Professor Mari Matsuda, class of ’80 and a veteran of the first Ete Bowl, says the experience was an important training ground. “I tell my students there is no way I would have been prepared for practice – or life – if I had not done the Ete Bowl,” said Matsuda. “Many women don’t get socialized to get hit, hard, fall down, get back up, and keep at it. Thanks to Ete, I can stare down any opponent, face any situation, with that calm look that says: ‘Oh, come on, you think I’m scared of you?! I was nose guard against Riki Amano!”
Hawai‘i Supreme Court Associate Justice Sabrina McKenna, a Bruzer regular who played as an Ete during her Law School days, commends the training it provides in teaching how to work together successfully in any organization.
“Playing a team sport really helps teach you how to work within an organization and to do your best to meet the goals of that organization – even if it’s not the part you want to play,” said McKenna. “It also teaches you about strategy and the importance of practice, and gave us renewed respect for the intelligence required to be a good football player.”
The Etes traditionally are coached by male law students, and practicing attorneys serve annually as Bruzer volunteer coaches. In addition, male classmates perform dance routines as the Ete queen and court at halftime.
Law School Dean Avi Soifer says this legendary football tradition is one of the key events that connects law students with mentors in the legal community. “The game is played with great zest, one might even say with fervor,” said Soifer, “yet the game itself and the post-game celebration underscore how true it is that sisterhood is powerful.”