Who would have thought the scrawny, little kid the neighborhood bullies picked on would be an official ref in the NFL?
Certainly not the big kids targeting me at school and on the playground.
I remember it like it was yesterday. John Richards (the leader), constantly teasing, threatening, yelling.
“Don’t be such a loser,” he’d say with each passing shove.
And now I stand officiating in the big game. The youngest ref in NFL history. Just as excited as the players.
Opposing coaches nod at one another- preparing for battle. Teams in position. My whistle at the ready.
The players don’t disappoint. It’s a constant back and forth. Touch downs made. Field goals solid. Crowd’s ecstatic.
An unexpected fumble leads to an interception towards the end of the fourth quarter. The crowd on its feet, the would-be hero racing down the field. It all comes down to this.
Defense closing in, he stumbles near the end zone. A collective gasp. Is it a touch down? Or is he out of bounds?
A hush falls over the stadium as they wait for the call.
NFL darling, number 37, John Richards, stands and looks me dead in the eyes. Recognition. I can see his heart sinking- and I smile.