This week's edition finds me in White Deer, Texas. Another small town here in the Texas Panhandle. Forty five miles east of Amarillo the town is large enough to have regular eleven man football.
Now the White Deer Bucks are bitter rivals with the neighboring Panhandle Panthers but on this particular night the hometown Bucks were playing a junior varsity game against some other town. I can't remember who, but it was not their big rival Panhandle. And I'll say it again. This story takes place during a Thursday night JV game. Not varsity. So in the grand scheme of things not a game of great importance.
White Deer played rather badly and in the end lost by twenty or twenty-five points. I remember the game itself being rather uneventful, but at least one fan did not see it that way.
After the game I'm walking out to my vehicle chatting with one of my fellow officials, a fellow who in his spare time competed in bodybuilding. The guy was a good ten or fifteen years older than me and although he stood only five eight or so he had massive biceps and huge pecs. I'm not even sure where he found striped shirts large enough to cover his muscles. As is, the fabric was stretched tighter than a pregnant zebra's belly.
Halfway to our cars a little old man held up a hand to stop us. I'd guess him to be late sixties or early seventies. Clad in a dirty pair of stained overalls he staggered a bit as he spoke in a drunken slur. "I haven't seen calls that bad since the '67 Panhandle game." Keep in mind this happened int he late 90's. 97 or 98, I think.
"You fellas are the worst refs I've ever seen." He scratched at the white stubble on his chin and even from a few feet I could smell the booze on his breath.
"Why thank you," I said. That was my standard line whenever people approached me after games with a report of how bad a job I had done.
The drunk narrowed his eyes as he swayed. Then he said. "Listen here smart-ass. What you need is an ass kickin'."
At this my fellow ref reached out and gathered the drunks overall bib and shirt into his meaty fist. Then he hoisted the old codger clean off the ground.
BY THEMSELVES ZEBRAS
ARE QUITE DOCILE
BUT IN PAIRS THEY
OFTEN TURN AGRESSIVE
The drunk's eyes widened and with missing a beat said with a slur , "Now shettle down. I Didn't say I was gonna kick his ash. I just said he needed one."
Despite the situation we both laughed. It isn't often you come across a fast thinking drunk. My friend put the man down who with out another word turned and staggered off across the gravel lot, but once he got to the far side he turned, lifted both hands and gave us a double one finger salute.
One thing I learned as a ref. The best you can hope for is that one side will not hate you at the end of the game. Someone from the losing team will always blame you regardless of the score, and in a close game it is very likely that both sides will be cussing your good name.