Best Seat in the House

Whoa….sorry it’s been so long since I have written peeps. I won’t bog you down with any lame excuses like, “Oh, has it really been that long,” or, “Wow, time flies when you’re having fun,” or even the all time fave, “Sorry, I’ve just been really busy.” Truth is, I have been busy, but not busy enough to not talk to you. I just haven’t had anything to say — seriously! It’s like that old joke about Einstein not talking until he was like 5 or something, and when his parents asked him why, he replied, “I had nothing to say.” Ok, maybe it’s not like that.

Oh wow, I feel like so much is going on since we last spoke. Where to focus on this conversation? Ah, I know…sports!! Lol, never fails, when I have nothing else to talk about, I can always fall back on sports. I guess it the Y chromosome in me, lol.

But seriously, I’m really excited because it is one of my most favorite times of the year. FOOTBALL SEASON!!! Hells yeah people!! I like most sports….well, except soccer. That crap bores me to death man. I almost refuse to call it a sport. Anything that can end in a 0-0 tie is bull-honkey. Whenever I watch a soccer match I feel like I want to blow my brains out from sheer boredom. UGH!! Now, I will admit I got caught up in the whole World Cup Fever thing when the U.S. was making some noise, but like any good red-blooded American, the minute they lost, I immediately focused on something more interesting, like paint drying.

Where was I? Oh yeah, REAL FOOTBALL!! I love all things NFL. I can watch ESPN’s NFL Live all year long. In fact, I do, just ask my wife. I have turned into the very person I used to mock, and you know what, I don’t care, lol. It has even gotten a bit worse over the last couple of years as I have ventured into the world of Fantasy Football.

I love fantasy football; it gives the fans more of a reason to pay attention to every game, and every player, every week. To be truthful, before then I only really focused on my team (Go Chargers), and would just catch up on everyone else by watching ESPN. But not now man, I’m all in baby. If there is a game on, I’m watching it. I don’t care who’s playing. Once I got involved with FF I could just hear the wife in the back of my brain saying, “Oh great, more football.” So I took a risk. I decided I needed to take action to prevent any such conversations. I took a risk a most men would wilt at. I decided to be more than a soldier in this fight, I was going to charge the enemy head on; take the fight to her!! So, I invited the wife to play as well. I thought, “Ha, that will teach her. She’ll give it a try and either not like it, or not understand. Lose most her games, then go away.” WRONG!!! I made a cardinal mistake many countries (including the good ole U.S. of A) has done on many battlefields….I underestimated my enemy.

I completely forgot who I was messing with people. The wife actually really liked it….and has now grown to love it; doesn’t hurt when you’re the two-time defending champion of our league. That’s right, you read that correctly. The wife has won our league not once, but twice. And this is not by luck either, the woman knows what she’s doing. I forgot that when the wife sets her mind on something, it’s pretty much a done deal. She researched and gathered stats more than anyone I have ever seen. I created a monster people. I’m serious. She is so into it now she watches those same shows with me that she used to criticize. When we watch the fantasy show on ESPN on Sundays before the game, the wife says the same advice the commentators do; just about 5 minutes before them. And then when they say what she said, she just smiles this evil little smile at me. It’s the kind of smile that makes your blood turn cold, as if she is a female lion smiling at her prey before she attacks. Lol, I kid, but seriously, the wife is a fantasy football machine.

But you know why I really love football season? It’s because it also means that one of the few activities that I truly love is back. I am, and have been for the past 8 years, a high school football referee. I absolutely love officiating games. I started while I was in San Diego, and have continued since relocating out here to D.C.

I started officiating football as kind of a fluke. It all started way back when; before the wife. That’s right, it’s a well kept secret in this household, but I used to have a life before the wife…..but I digress. I was dating this girl who played softball in junior college. During the off-season she would play in these travel leagues with pretty much the same girls from her college team. One weekend I accompanied her and her parents to one of her tournaments and was absolutely astounded by the amount of bad calls going on by the umpires. Her team was getting shellacked by the other girls; not only because of the calls, but also partly because they weren’t very good. The girl I was dating included. But of course, being the supportive boyfriend I was I piled on the umpire with everyone else.

Noticing that one of the umps looked like he was 17, I asked the girl’s father, “How did these morons get this job, and what’s with that guy; he looks like a kid?” He told me, “He probably is, and anyone can do this. Just sign up, take a few classes and bingo, you’re an ump.” I was blown away that it was that easy to become an umpire.

The next week, while at work I started looking in the local paper for my local baseball/softball officiating organization (this was instead of working, which is what I do best at work….nothing, lol). But, since it was towards the end of summer, baseball was not in season; although I stumbled upon something else. I found the local football officiating organization instead and thought, “What the heck, let’s give this a shot until baseball season comes around.” I went to all the classes, took the tests (failed them miserably the first time…..not to worry, most everyone does) and eventually got on the field in a live game.

The cool part about the organization in San Diego was that we not only did the high school officiating, but we also did all of the Pop Warner (Youth Football) on Saturdays. I have to admit, I really miss Pop Warner officiating. The kids were my favorite part. To me, pre-high school football is where it’s still pure and fun. None of the crazy politics or B.S. with scouting and colleges, and all that crap…..well, not as much. I can remember seeing college scouts at some youth games. It’s sad really. We don’t do the youth games in D.C., strictly high school.

You know, it’s funny, I got into football officiating as a way to kind of get in shape and get ready for the baseball season, but in the 8 years I have been doing this, I have rarely thought about umpiring. I never thought I would fall in love with officiating football as much as I did. I didn’t really appreciate it either until I lost it for a while.

Towards the last year in San Diego I had to give up officiating to focus on finishing school, but also because the job I was at had me on overnight schedules, with unpredictable days off. I could never ask off for Friday nights for high school and Saturdays for youth football; they would have never said yes. It sucked so bad. I was miserable all the time, and a big part of that was because I missed football so much.

Once we moved out here to D.C., the wife being the great friend that she is, saw how sad I was without my friends as well as not really having anything to call my own, suggested that I get back out on the field. I tried to resist saying that time was behind me, and that I had gotten rid of all my officiating stuff so what was the use. She kind of just gently patted my head and said, “Ok, just think about it.” Even though I wasn’t looking at her, I could “hear” the smile on her face, as if she already knew I was going to start looking for the local organization the minute she walked away….and I did.

I love being on the field. I was never an athlete growing up. I quit everything I ever started (athletics, acting, clubs). Every time something got too hard, I quit. And, I quit officiating too. But, at least I’m proud that I didn’t quit because it was hard. At the time I quit for honorable reasons, I had to help support a household, which meant taking a job that worked crazy-ass hours, and paid really well, lol.

I think what really draws me to being a football official is partly the same thing that draws me back to my time in the Army. First, it’s being part of “something;” saying that you are going to do your best to make sure everything goes right. Second, it’s the camaraderie you build with your fellow officials. It’s like we speak our own language; laugh at jokes that no one else understands, and tell stories only other officials get. Thirdly, and the most important reason of all; no matter what kind of game (high scoring, low scoring, clean or sloppy), it’s always the best seat in the house……plus, I get to throw a flag, lol.

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