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Doug Clark: Gonzaga Law classmates Bill Etter and Joe Shogan set right a 40-year-old intramural injustice

It’s not every day I get to witness a true historical event.

Although from what I saw, this handoff of a 40-year-old Gonzaga University intramural football trophy was far more hysterical than historical.

“This is it? The way you talked about it I was expecting something that looked like the Heisman.”

That’s Bill Etter’s shocked reaction upon being handed a 3-inch depiction of a running football player from Joe Shogan last Friday in a restaurant near the Gonzaga campus.

“G.U. MENS I.M. CHAMPS – 1976” reads the tiny inscription on the teensy trophy.

“Where’d you get that thing?” Etter continued, wiping away tears from laughing. “The Dollar Store?”

Let’s introduce the players in this sports saga:

Etter, 66, is a respected attorney who practices law in downtown Spokane.

Shogan, 68, is best-known for the headlines he made as president of the Spokane City Council.

Upset over some now-forgotten political skullduggery, Shogan once warned his council members that when he returned from vacation he was “bringing hell with me.”

Gawd, I miss those Shogan Council years.

Getting back to our tale, when Etter and Shogan were pursuing their law degrees the two students played in a university-approved intramural football league. Their teams were supposed to play each other for the division championship.

That was the plan, at least.

Victory for team Etter was pretty much a foregone conclusion due to so many elite players.

I remember Etter from my high school days.

He was something else. Etter quarterbacked the Lewis and Clark Tigers to a city championship and then went on to play for Notre Dame.

Shogan conceded on Friday that his team didn’t have a prayer of advancing if “we couldn’t get out of playing those guys.”

And then the way out arrived.

Etter’s teammates couldn’t make the game due to class conflicts.

Shogan, captain of a team sponsored by The Forum Tavern, was offered another date.

He declined.

Shogan was offered a second date with Etter’s team furnishing a keg of beer.

What college kid in 1976 wouldn’t have gone along with that enticement?

No soap, said Shogan.

Shogan earlier had told me he couldn’t get his players together. But his aforementioned confession spun it in a different direction.

It’s “an admission against interest,” said Etter, explaining the legal parlance.

These guys. What a hoot.

Whatever the motive, Shogan’s team took the coward’s way out and won by forfeiture.

Memories of this game that never happened disappeared with time. Then the subject came up one day when the two ran into each other.

Etter supposedly joked that of all his sports accomplishments, not having that intramural trophy stuck in his craw.

That’s according to Shogan, who also said he played safety.

“You know what safety in intramural football is?” Etter quipped between laughs. “That’s the guy who stands way back and keeps out of the way.”

I’ll say this about these two. They both look lean and agile enough to still play football.

Shogan proved it by wearing the original red Forum jersey that he’s saved all these years along with his minitrophy.

“We didn’t even have jerseys,” Etter added.

And so it came to pass that Shogan gave Etter his trophy, supposedly to display in his law office for a month.

There was only one catch to Shogan giving up his precious trophy: He got to use Etter’s alumni status to buy a ticket to a recent Notre Dame football game.

Don’t bet on this thing ending up in Etter’s office. It’s so cheesy it’ll probably wind up in the junk box of his car.

“I don’t want to be a dog in the manger, but I don’t want it!” said Etter.

“It is modest,” countered Shogan. “But it’s the accomplishment that counts.”

Doug Clark is a columnist for The Spokesman-Review. He can be reached at (509) 459-5432 or by email at dougc@spokesman.com.


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