Enlightenment of the colors

By John Owen | Mar 22, 2012

It is not really a password. You might describe it as a head case.

The head belongs to me and so does the visored sports cap that I wear when the situation warrants.

The colors are maroon and gray.  A bear claw is embroidered onto the brim.  And the dominant lettering reads, "GRIZ."

Often I forget what I'm wearing to keep the rain drops off.  But somebody reminds me.

It happened recently when I was standing outside the Pancake Haus.

"You're a Griz?" asked a man about my age and his wife seemed interested as well.

"Yup," I responded brightly.  And I told him the year of my graduation from the University of Montana.

Turns out he was studying at the same school at about the same time and later practiced law in Missoula.

The next morning I was standing in a workout  room at Harbor Square trying to avoid strenuous exercise when a fellow in his early 20s noted my hat and acknowledged that  he was a "Griz" as well.

We were taught good manners at the U of M and none of us, I presume, lorded it over the Huskies when Final Four seedings were announced.

The Grizzlies earned a slot in the tournament.  The Huskies did not.

When I was in college the Grizzlies were in the same conference as the Huskies, Cougars, the Oregon and California schools.  In my yearbook there is a photo of a football game the Grizzlies played against USC in the L.A. Coliseum which seated close to 100,000 fans.

It looked very much as though the only spectators in attendance were ushers or kinfolk of the participating athletes.

It was the kind of non-crowd the Huskies drew, when they played their first NIT basketball game at Hec Ed Pavilion recently.

Hardly anybody in attendance seemed to be wearing a Big W hat.  And I don't think the ushers allowed the Husky mascot into the arena.

Even if they had, a furry sled dog doesn't command quite the respect as a Grizzly bear.

And you don't have to drive far out of Missoula to find a wild bear.  Some of them are probably wearing GRIZ hats.

Maybe former students of every school have equal pride in their alma mater.

But I like to think those who wear the maroon and gray would prefer to be shot dead by a hunter, lest they be mistaken for a WSU Cougar, which wears similar colors.

A lot of strangers noting my hat will remark on their fondness for Missoula.   Hardly any strangers would stop you on the street and holler, "Wow, Pullman.  What a town!"

I don't flaunt my academic background.  As a matter of fact I did not purchase a Griz hat.  It was given to me by my sister.  She had previously given it to her late husband.  But he was a Montana rancher and would only wear John Deere caps.

My nieces and their husbands attended the U. of Montana and stayed on as faculty members.  A couple of them briefly attended the University of Washington but returned to Big Sky Country.

They probably noticed that nobody on the UW campus was wearing a Griz hat, a symbol that still demands respect among weight lifters and pancake eaters in Edmonds.


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