Sunday, September 9, 2007

'Twas a Dark and Stormy Night - Tales of The Yellow Flag

This weeks officiating adventure took place in the small town of Silverton, Texas, and once again the hometown teams mascot is the Owls. Silverton is about sixty miles southeast of Amarillo. Here is a pic I found of the area surrounding town. Amarillo sits on what is called the Caprock and Sivlerton is right along the breaks where the caprock drops off.

Most sports fans recognize the name Micky Mantle. Mantle is a baseball legend. Few people have probably heard of Larry Mantle, Micky's brother but back in 1998 Larry Mantle was the head coach of the Silverton Owls six-man football team.

The year before the Owls had advanced deep into the state playoffs before eventually losing to the team that went on to claim the Texas state title, and once again the Owls were ranked in the top five in the statewide polls.

Larry Mantle was a big imposing guy who commandeered a healthy respect amongst his players, fans, opposing coaches and, the official assigned to his games. He wasn't necessarily a screamer or a volatile guy, but as a ref you knew when he was displeased with a call. I had called a game in Silverton the previous year without incident, but on this early September in 1998 things did not go my way.

It started raining early on and by the second quarter the filed, the ball and everyone's nerves were a bit slippery. And Silverton was losing handily to a team they were supposed to beat with ease. There had been numerous flags including a controversial pass interference call I made against the home team. And Coach Mantle insisted that the other team's lineman were holding his players. I watched, but in my humble opinion the blocks were clean.

Just before half the black skies ruptured, Rain pelted down in sheets, and pea sized hail bounced off of players helmets. Unfortunately, referees, coaches and fans do not wear helmets. When a bolt of lightening struck nearby the head referee stopped the game and we fled to the safety of the locker rooms.

In these small schools us official were given whatever space was available. In Silverton this happened to be Coach Mantle's office, so as we sat there dripping wondering how long the storm would linger, and wondering if the highly ranked Owls would find a way to get back in the game and preserve their standing.

About an hour went by before Coach Mantle came in said, the storm was expected to last several hours and he was choosing to forfeit. When the head official explained that the game could simply be canceled or postponed Coach Mantle said something to the affect of, "No, we'll take our loss like men and move on."

So I changed out of my stripes, dried my body, and got dressed for the hour drive home. By the time I was finished the other refs had already gone. I trudged out to my Jeep Cherokee. The rain was still coming down and lightening danced through the sky. Then I reached in my jeans pocket and realized my keys were gone. I patted the other pocket. Empty. Then I peered inside the driver's window and there in a momentary lightening flash I spotted them on the passenger seat.

I tried every door but they were all locked, so begrudgingly I went back inside. Down the hall I head voices so I walked that way until I reached the boys locker room. I eased the door open and heard the coach delivering a speech which went something like this ...

... I realize the odds were stacked against us. The rain made the ball hard to hold on to. And I've never seen a worse officiating crew. Blind, incompetent, and that pass interference call was absolutely ridiculous.

About this time several of the players noticed me and pointed to the back of the room. Coach Mantle turned, sized me up and said, "What?"

Rather sheepishly I said, "I locked my keys in the car."
The coach nodded. "That figures."
Players chuckled.
"I was wondering if you had a coat hanger or something."
"I'll get you some help. Just wait out by your car."

So I went back outside and waited. In the rain.

Ten minutes later a sheriff pulled up. As he fished around with his slim-jim he said, "Some game tonight."
"Yeah, too bad the storm cut it short," I said. "Might have made a comeback.""I doubt it," Said the sheriff as the locked popped open on my door. "Not with calls like that pass interference."

"I said nothing to that."

"There you go." The sheriff stepped back so I could sit down behind the wheel.
"Thanks. I really appreciate it."

The sheriff nodded and readjusted the Stetson on his head. "Yep. My boys been playing ball since grade school, but that's the first time he's ever been flagged for pass interference."

The sheriff followed right behind my as I drove out of town. And you can bet I stopped at the one blinking light and I kept the speedometer a good five miles below the posted speed limit, but still I kept waiting for those red and blues to flash in the rear view mirror.

But I escaped town wet, but unharmed and to Coach Mantle's credit he offered a handshake and merely said, "I remember you," the next time I called a game in his town.


THE DUCK said...

"That figures". Ouch. You've lead an infinitely more interesting life than I have. Well, either that, or your memory is just significantly better than mine. Either way it makes for good reading.

Angie said...

Yikes! OK, that's a funny story. :D I'm sure you weren't enjoying it at the time, but looking back, the way it flows from one incident to the next, with coincidences which are just a step or two short of the Too Much line, makes it work really well.


Jason said...

I actually didn't believe the bit about him being Mickey's brother and really loved it as a work of fiction. It made me laugh. Then I went and fixed dinner for the kids. Then I thought about it. Then I did a quick Google on him. (

Very cool.

Travis Erwin said...

Yep he really was the Mick's brother. Looked a lot like him only a bit huskier and older than most of the pics I've seen of Micky.

I know I'm full of BS from time to time but this story is all too true.

Ello said...

You are a born storyteller. There is no doubt in my mind that I will be reading your published books someday soon.


Stephen Parrish said...

Great story.

Only six men on the team, and they're ranked in the top five in the state? That's harder to believe than the Mickey Mantle brother thing.

Travis Erwin said...

Actually there are six different levles of schools in Texas and each has its own rankings. From the smallest schools which play six man ball to the large schools which are classified as 5A.

nutz said...

Hey Travis---thanks for the comment! Yep, the pics were from the Indianapolis Zoo, it's pretty cool there. And you must not know me pretty well...I know NOTHING about football esp scoring, so don't take the picks personal...LOL

Bubblewench said...

Great story! Made me laugh and worry for you especially at the end there!

Charles Gramlich said...

Great story. I don't know if I can think of a more thankless task than being a referee. Sometimes it feels like teaching is much the same, but I do get thanks on occassion. I appreciate you dropping by my blog. I'll add you to my links this week.