What would any weekend be these days without hanging out with my friend Norm on a Saturday refereeing football? Norm is one of the most loyal guys I know and we have had many an adventure that sometimes would be hard to believe. But what often goes on while on the road is meant to stay on the road but these past few weekends have had some interesting officiating tales that I must tell.
Those Saturdays have been a coming and a going with some wild adventures in the land of the sun. Every week was bringing a first for us in youth football. Just several weeks ago, we were officiating and it was the last game of the day, we were at a halftime and a bit worn out sitting around waiting for the start of the second half. The game administrator arrives to our quiet area and tells us that the game is over as one team forfeited to the other because they had Powerade on the game field. That was a new one for me. Evidently the league had notified teams that they must keep the “sticky” drinks off of the turf surfaces so they can continue to use school facilities. Now for the escape without confrontation as we all know, refs seem to get the blame for just about everything that might happen in events at a game.
The losing coach seemed to take it ok since they were behind by about 30 points at the half but one of the winning coaches went bananas. I did not run off as I was in the peace keeping mode and wanted to make sure that the game administrator was not going to be pulverized and I sure didn’t want to be the one blamed. Norm and I slowly pack up and head off to new adventures. Game over but game on.
So I take Norm to the Sleepy Dog Brewery in Tempe, (one of my favorites) for a craft brew. That was fun. The workers were great and we had a bartender who told us she was Vietnamese and how her parents were relocated to Arkansas back in the day during the collapse of Viet Nam so it made for interesting conversation. I always enjoy the stories behind the stories.
I think Norm is beginning to be sort of like Norm from Cheers thanks to hanging out with me. Probably an exaggeration but I thought it sounded good. Anyhow we just unwound with a cold one and had a nice relaxing time after a warm day in the sun.
I did have a Groupon that I used for two pints and two take home bottles. (Norm was on my dime with the Groupon). I had the new seasonal stout that was great, Norm went with something more or less normal. Go figure. I got to take home two of the Monje Azul summer ale bottles that Carolyn and I love. It is brewed with Blue Agave Nectar and I think it is a real winner. The down side for the Sleepy Dog is they have no food (except for free popcorn). It is easily found on University Drive. http://sleepydogbrewing.com
We needed food so we went to the newly reopened Minder Binders. Wow. You would not recognize the place from the old days. It is now called The Mission @ Minder Binder. It is beautiful. Reminded me of that show Extreme Makeover. http://www.theminderbinder.com In talking with staff, it took them over two years to open up the new completely remodeled building. The history is interesting as it opened in 1972 and closed in 2005 and sat for seven years until new owners started the rehab. Food was not as good as I had hoped (burgers were a bit overcooked) but I’m sure they will get that right eventually. The courtyard dining area is something to see. I called my friend Max to let him know that his name and number were still carved for all to see in the bathroom. Ok not so much but there is no longer women’s lingerie (bras) hanging from the ceiling lights, no longer do you stick to the floors, the booths are smooth and upholstered, and the bar stools have been completely upgraded. The barn look has been maintained but the rest is totally rehabbed.
Homeword bound, we arrive home to end our weekend journey. Norm to rest, me to continue my eBay Sales.
The following weekend, Norm and I head back to referee and meet up with John another ref from Payson to work several games at the Desert Ridge Jr High field in Mesa and our 4th official is a really nice guy name Tito. These are the tough fields as the players, coaches, and fans are all on the sidelines since there are no boundaries, stands, barriers to keep spectators away from the field. In fact one spectator draws an unsportsmanlike penalty from Norm since the fan is standing next to a coach simulating snap counts to disrupt the other team. Hmmm. Not good but that game ends without any incidents and we are ready for the next one.
Our last game of the day involves bigger players as it is a junior high aged group which I think might include 9th graders. They are big kids and have some good athletes out there. Once again we are in the bowl with spectators and everybody bunched up about 4 to 5 yards off the sidelines. One team was from Peoria and another from Mesa and they referred to each other as the “Eastside” and the “Westside”. I should have known that was probably a bad omen even though neither team was gangster oriented. Kids were pretty good but by halftime it was evident that the Peoria team was a bit better than the Mesa team. Nothing stands out in the first half but we had two unsporting penalties that were really not major but we had a preventive time of talk to the coaches to make sure everything would be copacetic.
Early in the 3rd Quarter, on an attempted extra point, Peoria has the ball hiked over the head of the kicker and holder and as they retrieve the ball and attempt to score, a scuffle breaks out back towards the middle of the field on about the three yard line. The attempted pass fails and I throw my flag towards the two involved in the scuffle and as we move in, chaos erupts. A free-for-all type of brawl breaks out and players are wrestling with each other and rolling around and the benches clear. Yikes, I am totally stunned. It is like a youtube video that you have seen where chaos breaks out at some kids sporting event.
The coaches, about 7 for each team, literally break up the players from the scrum but you now have parents surrounding the fighting behavior and I was just looking to keep my good looks intact. Ok I just didn’t want somebody to whack me in the head. The game administrator was great and the EMTs helped clear and separate. Several of the fans were absurd as they yelled profanity laced comments to the game administrator and others. Police are called and they came in force–something like 9 police cruisers showed up. In reality it could have been much worse. Nobody got hurt which is typical of football fights since they have helmets on and are padded up pretty good. The game of course is over and the teams go their separate ways to discuss whatever they discuss as a team. The game administrator meets with police and several parents who have various beefs and accusations against opposing team coaches. The police patrol the area making sure there is no carryover and do an outstanding job. Game over in an another new way. Wow.
Norm and I pack up and head out and leave the area. (Notice Norm heading off to safety where several of the police cars have parked.)
Norm takes me to meet up with Carolyn at the Beer Research Institute and Norm heads back to Lifeway to get more reading material. Carolyn and I spend the Easter Weekend in the Valley and Norm must travel on alone to Payson.
In retrospect the Lone Ranger had 221 episodes on television with his faithful sidekick, Tonto. By now, me and my sidekick, (my loyal friend Norm) have probably surpassed that number of episodes. The number of Saturday football games we have officiated together must be an outrageous number. The good news is we continue to be renewed. As Norm often asks me, “Why do we do this?” My answer is usually, “Well Norm, what else would we be doing?” It just so happens some days will never be forgotten and we have had several of those already this year. We ain’t got any horses but we sure feel like we are sometimes in the wild west.