Sunday, September 16, 2007

One in Every Crowd -- Tales of the Yellow Flag

This is my favorite story about my officiating days so even if you do not like football I urge you to read this one. Hope y'all find it as humorous as I do.

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.


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.


Ello said...

Tighter than a pregnant zebra's belly! That has got to be the most awesome metaphor! How do you come up with this stuff?

Phats said...

HAHA that was a good one, were you nervous the old man was gonna kick your ass? haha.

When I was cheerleading at Purdue we always tumble thru the endzone after touchdowns, and my friend Drew went a little too early once and about kicked a ref right in the face. Luckily the ref saw it coming and was able to get out of the way ha.

Phats said...

BTW I wouldn't take that loss last night too hard USC showed why they are favored to play for a title again. You'll bounce back vs the school letterman built this week. It will be hard to pick against the Cards!

Bubblewench said...

and this is why you are a writer! What a great story! I think I know that drunk old man..... I may have dated him.

cher said...

first of all, i am the fastest thinking drunk around. don't bother looking for me, i'm probably in a ditch passed out.
second of all, i wrote you a formal apology on phat's blog
and third of all, have you sold your book yet? hahhahaha

i know. i'm completely annoying.

Skiingred said...

Too funny!

Jason said...

I would have been more nervous than a long tailed cat in a room full of rockers. If he hadn't been 70 and drunk. Watch for the gun in the pocket. Remember - Johnny Cash shot a man in Reno. Just to watch him die.

But seriously, I never saw Travis back down from nothing as a kid. He may have not enjoyed a situation here and there. But he never ran. He always stood his ground.

Where did all that come from?

I'm going to bed.

Phats said...

That pinata is cool can I get one that looks like Bobby Knight?

Fiona said...

Gosh. I can't think on my feet like that when I'm sober - let alone three sheets to the wind.

Referees. What a hard time they get. My husband refs football and cricket. The cricket is civilised - most of the time - a bit of swearing under the breath perhaps. The football. My God. The parents (he refs for the under thirteens)virtually attack you. My husband, the pirate, a big, dark, cornish man can be quite scary so it doesn't usually come to blows.

'Tighter than a pregnant zebra's belly.' Love it.

Bernita said...

Perfect zebra image!

Cheryl Wray said...

That story is GREAT!!!! Great comeback by the guy, you gotta admit!
i have to say that the refs definitely get the raw end of the deal. And, of course, as a BIG sports fan I will yell at them too. But... I try and realize what a tough job they have!! (And our middle daughter plays softball and, let me tell you, those umps have it really rough sometimes!)

Travis Erwin said...

Ello - My head is full of BS. SOmetimes it works sometimes it doesn't.

Phats - I have a few stories that involve cheerleadres to come. And as far as the Huskers it bothers me to see my team be that soft along the d-line.

Bubblewench - Maybe that was his problem. He'd gone on a drunken binge after you pillaged his heart.

Cher - Thanks for the heartfelt and Yogi Berra-ish apology. And yes you are but you get away with it by being funny as all get out.

SkiingRed - Yep this one was even funny at the time.

Jason - Are you forgetting about the that incident with the firecrackers and the police. We both ran that time. And the burning sack of dog food.

Phats - You know Texas Tech is only a hundred miles south of me, so if you wanna head on down to visit your favorite b-ball coach just let me know.

Fiona - I'm always glad to hear from a new commenter. The football youa re talking about is even crazier than mine. I can say I never had to deal with a band of soccer hooligans.

Bernita - Thanks and by the way I still liked you line with the broken teeth the best in Nathan's contest.

Cheryl- Yeah I did ump a bit too and it is worse. Especially when you are behind the plate and have all those poeple breathing down your neck.

Charles Gramlich said...

You are a braver man than I to be a ref.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


One danger of giving an old man a couple of drinks is that he often thinks he is young again.


angel, jr. said...

That was one heck of a story. I loved that he said he wasn't going to kick your butt, but that he just felt you needed one.

Becky said...

You can't please them all, can you?