By this time the football team's audience had grown from that original brave band of 50 to crowds of 20,000 and upward. They got a huge hunk of the cheering party, plus that consummate glory, the band. In fact, this resurgence of American football had reached such proportions that it came to the attention of U.S. Occupation authorities, in the person of one Al Dearing, a major in the psychological warfare division but in civilian life a New York public-relations man.
In the spring, the world over, a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love and/or riot. In America, it is panty raids. In Japan a good anti-American riot always makes everybody feel better. Dearing, thinking every minute, saw a way to head off this traditional spring revelry.
"Dearing," Oakes said, "had a vision of a big Japanese-American football game, to be played in Kyoto. He figured it would be a great demonstration of good feeling. It would show that Japanese and Americans could knock heads together and then throw their arms around each other and walk off the field."
Dearing had in mind an all-Japanese team against a gaggle of American college stars who were playing in Japan on U.S. Army teams. The occasion was to be called the First Annual Kyoto Bowl Game—although it turned out to be the only one.
An artist in his field, Dearing conned the mayor of Kyoto into sponsoring the game and Oakes into coaching the Japanese team. It took a little doing to get Oakes down to Kyoto, all expenses paid, but the armed forces came to the rescue. Oakes had done a hitch in the Navy during the war, and he was taken back on active duty as an ensign and assigned to Kyoto. But he made a condition. "We won't play against American college players," he told Dearing. "The weight difference is too great." His idea was to play an all-star team from the occupation forces high schools in Japan. O.K., said Dearing. Oakes organized his team, and they entrained for Kyoto. A band met them at the station. There were reporters, radio interviews, the mayor gave them the key to the city. Dearing had posters put up all over. He had arranged for hot dogs to add an authentic American touch. Bands and marching formations were waiting in the wings.
But Dearing had neglected to do one thing. He had forgotten to clear all this with the superintendent of the American high schools in Japan. When that gentleman learned what the American school coaches had agreed to, he vetoed the whole show.
"There we were in Kyoto," Oakes said, "with no team to play."
"We'll have to get an Army team," Dearing said desperately. He took Oakes to the colonel in command of the Kyoto area. The colonel was unhappy, but this thing was bigger than all of them. "O.K.," the colonel said reluctantly, "I'll get you an Army team."
"Agreed," Oakes said, "but nobody over 190 pounds." (The average weight of Japanese college players is 160 pounds.)
Four days before the game, he was given the roster of the opposing team. He flipped. It seemed as if everybody on the list weighed 190. He called his team together in the locker room and made a speech. The circumstances of the game had changed, he told them. They had in effect been brought down to Kyoto under false pretenses; they were not going to play a high school team, but full-grown Americans.