Holy Pockets, Who Is The Idiot Running The Clock

Back in my 40’s which was the 90’s, a fellow church member talked me into officiating football. He assured me it would be a good way to make a little extra money. I had rather stock shelves at Walmart from midnight to 4 am than to officiate any sport but I gave it my best shot. The head of the crew in football is called the Referee; he is the guy with the white cap and he should know more than anyone else on the field when it comes to the rules of play. I learned quickly, that you did not want to get stuck with a bad referee, especially when you were unsure of yourself. I had two that I enjoyed working with: one has been a friend for many years but the other I came to know through my association with him in football. He is a good man and we will call him Don.

a football officiating crewWe were working a game at West Morgan one night and as the Umpire {man in the middle} I was trailing a long run. Don came running up behind me after the whistle and said, “Jack, what do you have?” I said, “I don’t have anything.” He said, “You better have something because your flag is about 15 yards behind you and he pointed to my flag. I reached in my pocket to show him that I had my flag and sure enough it was gone. I went back and picked it up. I said, “Don, I didn’t throw the flag, I don’t know how it got on the ground, but I have to foul.” Don did what no Referee enjoys doing: He took out his flag and waved it back and forth which is the indication that there has been a mistake and that there is no flag on the play.

Ten or fifteen plays later, it happened again. Don came running up and said, “Jack, what do you have this time.” I said, “I don’t have a thing.” “Is that your flag?” He said as he pointed to a flag on the ground. “Yes but I did not throw it,” I said. So here we go again; I reach into my pocket no flag and by this time, I am deeply  flustered, I go pick up my flag and Don is humiliated as he goes through the routine again. After making the correction, he comes over to me and says, “Jack, turn all the way around.” So I did a full one-eighty. He said, “Jack, you have a hole in your back pocket, tuck your flag in your front belt and don’t drop it again unless you have something.”

I saw Don last night and he still remembers the story. Actually, there is one that tops the above. My son was in the 10th grade on the varsity squad. One week we ran short of officials on this particular Friday night and they knew I could not be on the ground crew so that put me running the clock with my son playing. Bad, bad mistake. The P.A. guy was a long time friend and he would remind me ever so often to start or stop the clock. I kept getting distracted by the game. The last thing I needed was for the game to go down to the wire but it did and instead of starting the clock, I stopped it, then I got totally confused and the P.A. man reached over and stopped it but it was too late. Everybody knew the clock was not right but no one knew what time to put back on the clock. In my opinion, I extended the game which was in Danville’s favor but Don [my good friend] had no choice but to leave the clock where it was and that gave us one more play. Of all things, I forget to hit the button and was late starting the clock again, the game should have been over but when we threw and incomplete pass, I was to stop the clock with three or four seconds remaining. The P.A. guy and Don knew that I started the clock more than 3 seconds late so Don called the game with us at mid-field. Everyone in the stadium new that I had messed up but they didn’t know how bad. Thankfully, the pass was incomplete and we did not win the game due to my neglect. On the last error, P.A. man who was very professional said, “Don’t stop the clock.” So I let the clock run out as the ball fell to the ground. Had I stopped it at the proper time there would have been 3-4 seconds on it because I didn’t start it on time. Both the P.A. man and I knew that technically there was no more time on the clock and in only honesty we probably got to run one extra play as it was.

Two very embarrassing things came out of this; perhaps three.

My daughter spends the night with one of the church families who just happened to be at the infamous game. My daughter says at the breakfast table the next morning, “Who was the idiot running the clock last night?” They all started laughing and one of them said, “It was your daddy.” She bowed her head in shame.

I admired and respected the referee and hoped that someday we could be friends so I was worried about him hating me for messing things up and causing so much embarrassment to the crew. Our head coach and I did not get along so well. We were too much  alike and our personalities clashed. I knew he was going to be mad at me even thought I did the home team a favor {not intentionally}. He knew I was running the clock but he got angry with Don when he should have been angry with me. Years later, after the coach retired, he and I became friends. This is what makes the story incredible.  One day at lunch, I decide to level with him. I asked if he remembered the game. “Your darn right I remember. Hey, Widner {Don} blew the call. We had another down coming to us.” I said, “Coach, about that down, it was not Don’s fault, I blew it by not starting the clock. Plus, I had already fouled up the play before. It was all my fault.” The coach responded, “Hey, it was referees fault, he blew the call.” Trust me, I tried to change his mind but could not. I knew I was guilty but he would like listen to my confession.

Here is the moral of the story: I made a bad error that embarrassed a good man and infuriated another. Neither were good friends but I still felt bad. Eventually, I apologize to both and both in time became good friends.  I am thankful that neither Don nor Coach held a grudge. It was my fault and both had ample reason to be upset with me. We can laugh about it now but that night it was anything but funny.

I did know what to do after the game: I resigned and never wore the stripes again.



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