The officials: an open letter to the NFL

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Officiating in the NFL is a grueling job, one that gets no respect. The zebras need some assistance and the league can help.

Dear NFL Folks,

I’ve noticed that your officiating crews have been, um … taking it in the shorts for quite a while now. I realize throwing flags and blowing whistles in your league is a thankless gig and that your zebras are frequently targets of disdain and, sadly, sometimes outright hatred. So, with that in mind, I have some suggestions that might improve your officiating problems.

First, recruit people who are as athletic as the players they are being called upon to officiate. Here’s how you can do that. Every year on cut day, have someone waiting at the door of every single NFL team. As the players who’ve been cut emerge, offer them a job. Make it a high-paying one, like maybe $250,000 annually. (Come on, you can afford it.) Inform said players that if they’d like to stay in the game, officiating would be a great way to do just that. Now, I understand that many players will laugh and walk away, the idea of being an official repugnant. But some might consider the offer, and the more physically fit and mobile an official is the better chance they have of being where they need to be to get that big call right.

Next, build a minor league system. (Again, you can afford it.) Don’t you think it’s way past the time you should be counting on college football to prepare your players and officials? Come on, look at Major League Baseball. Then, institute a lower-level of professional football, a place where players can get acclimated to the system and where budding officials can get more snaps. Because that’s what they need. And, gosh, I bet coaches might also boost their skills in an out-of-the spotlight league.

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Ed  Hochuli spent 27 years officiating in the NFL. All that time his professional designation was lawyer and his NFL job was part-time.

Then, hire your officials as full-time employees. It’s laughable that, until recently, your officials were not considered professionals. They were lawyers and teachers and doctors and police officers. Officiating was their hobby, making the NFL the only major sport with part-time officials. Right now, you have a few zebras who’ve been hired fulltime. It’s time to give them all that status.

Finally, pay your officials a decent salary, commensurate with the stress of the job and the crap they endure because of it. Currently, you pay your officials by position on a per-game basis. The highest paid officials, the referees, make about $70,000 annually, while those side, back, and line judges earn a piddly $25,000. (Yes, I know they make added income in the play-offs, but that’s bonus pay that is not available to all officials.) By comparison, NBA refs make $128,000, NHL officials earn $139,000, and Major League Baseball umpires bank about $141,000 in regular-season income. So, come on. Give your flag throwers a real salary with benefits like healthcare, because they get hurt out there too, injuries that – like the players – will stay with them a lifetime. Think about this. If you up the ante you might draw more of those young, fit, athletic types you’re looking for. And, while I hate to mention this again, I can’t help myself. You can afford it.

NFL Officials 1

The zebras won’t get every play right, but with a little help the the calls in the NFL will improve.

 Will these suggestions assure that NFL officials get every call right? Of course not. But they will certainly improve the situation. If you’re hesitant, just remember the league doesn’t need any more black eyes in regard to blown calls that cost teams the chance to advance in the playoffs. And what have you got to lose by spending a little more of your massive mountain of money to recruit, train, and retain officials?

Now, grab your checkbook.

Sincerely,

Anne Montgomery

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

I can take care of myself, but it’s nice of you to care

Me Umpiring 3

I’ve had a number of jobs where I was the only woman around, like my stint as an umpire in a mens amateur baseball league.

I’ve had a few jobs where I was, on most occasions, the only woman around. I spent about ten years as a TV sports reporter, covering primarily mens sports. Back when I was a journalist, there were almost no other women working in the sportscasting ranks. For the past 40 years, I’ve been an amateur sports official, calling football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and basketball games. Today, I’m an Arizona Interscholastic Association high school football referee and crew chief. Again, on those occasions, I am almost always the only one representing my gender.

I bring this up because of struggles I’ve had dealing with what is essentially kindness. You see, some men want to take care of me. Sweet, yes? However – as women who have trod the boards in careers like mine surely know – those nice guys can put us in uncomfortable positions.

A case in point: Once, I was umpiring a men’s league baseball game, one of those strange situations where 40-year-olds think there are still scouts in the stands and that they might one day be called to the bigs. So, yes, they took those contests seriously.

All these years later, I can’t tell you why the coach was angry. I had the plate, so when he stormed out of the dugout waving his arms and screaming it was clear he disagreed with my call. As he approached, I noticed movement from the outfield. A quick glance told me the coach was in trouble.

Me and Don Baseball

My late partner Don Clarkson was a lovely man who sometimes felt the need to protect me on the field.

My umpiring partner Don Clarkson – a Green Beret war hero who did two tours in Vietnam – had both fists clenched at his sides. He headed for the plate, squinting at the coach, who – wide-eyed, spittle flying – berated me in front of the crowd.

“You need to back away, Coach!” I eyed my partner, who suffered from Post Traumatic Stress and had hands the size of hams.

Ry and Baby

My sweetie pie Ryan might appear to be a gentle sort, but twenty years working security made him pretty handy in a fight.

Then, I caught movement by the backstop. My sweetie pie gripped the screen tightly. Let me say here that Ryan spent a couple of decades doing security for rock-and-roll bands, NFL and college football, Super Bowls, soccer’s World Cup, and other dandy events like MTV Spring Break and, my favorite, a long string of performances staring Michael Crawford in Phantom of the Opera.

The coach took another step toward me and we were  nose to nose. Don passed the mound. I raised my hand to stop him.

“Coach! Get off he field!”

I glanced at Ryan. He let go of the backstop.

“Back away!” I yelled, hoping all three men might heed my warning. The coach, who didn’t realize he was in danger, continued screaming. My brain whirled. Had I not been distracted by the vision of a blood-soaked infield, I would have ejected him.

I stared at Ryan. “No!” I hoped he would stay where he was.

I’m still not sure what made the coach back away. But he did, just in time.

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Every year, Ryan reminds my crew mates to take care of me. I guess I’ll have to get used to it.

Now, I don’t want to appear ungrateful. In fact, it’s comforting to know that a couple of big guys had my back. However, I think it prudent that I fight my own battles.

Today, Ryan agrees. And yet, every year when he meets my football crew at the beginning of the season, he can’t help himself.  He shakes their hands and says, “Take care of her.”

I guess I’ll just have to get used to it.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A run-in with the beach master

Me diving 2 smaller

It took me years to begin to understand how to behave properly in the sea.

Years ago, when I was a baby diver, I was on a boat off the coast of Mexico near San Carlos. I had just passed my dive certification and was pretty proud of myself. I thought my new license meant I was knowledgeable enough to stay safe in the sea. That the course and written and physical tests proved I knew what I was doing in that watery world.

I was wrong.

On this day, we were anchored off a small island where we saw a group of seals basking on a beach of tan sand. Dark, rocky cliffs rose behind the creatures, most of whom sunned themselves or snoozed, taking seal naps.

“The females are brown,” the dive master explained.

Later, that bit of information would prove vital.

“The males are darker. Almost black.”

As we were taking a break between dives, I grabbed my mask and fins and jumped in for a closer look. I half expected other divers to join me, but no one did.

“Be careful!” my sweetie pie called from the boat.

I swam toward the beach. Be careful? I I reflected on the creatures I’d seen in countless videos, swirling and playing, cute, jovial beasts, suitable for children’s stuffed toys.

The sea floor rose as I swam, my eyes fixed on the seals. Several reclined in a group. One large animal perched nearby. Then, I heard the bellowing, like a moose call. The larger seal, snout pointed at the the sky, called again.

Here’s where you can call me a dope. Because, I kept swimming toward the beach. Why you ask? Well, that seal appeared to be brown. So, no worries. I understood a male seal with a harem might be problematic, but I didn’t see any black seals.

Bull Seal 2

A large seal like this one – which I would later learn was called the beach master – perched by a group of other seals.

The large animal locked eyes with me and bellowed again. I instantly dropped my feet to the sand, my spidey senses on high alert. Then the seal waddled off the beach and plunged into the water.

That dark body came at me like a torpedo, barely submerged. My stomach dropped. There was no way I could out swim the beast. I thought I might be sick. Would the animal spear me or bite me? Either way, the confrontation would be ugly.

I braced for impact. But, when the seal was within about ten feet of me, he veered sharply to the right, and disappeared under the water. I stood frozen, wondering if he might attack from a different angle.

Nothing happened.

I waited.

Then, the seal roared up onto the beach, flipped around and bellowed again. I didn’t need a second invitation to leave. I turned and swam back to the boat, kicking as hard as I could, all the while wondering if the seal was on my tail.

“You’re lucky,” my sweetie pie said, as he helped me into the boat. “You could have been bitten.”

I was breathing heavily as I stared at the beach. The male seal – that I later learned was called the beach master, meaning the animal that owned and protected the harem – stood defiantly on the sand, still gazing in my direction.

Today, I realize that I will always be just a visitor in the sea. And, if I am to survive as a guest in that world, I must always be respectful and vigilant, or I might end up with some bite marks.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finding a home

Morgan Box 1

This kitty needed a home, but I was conflicted.

“Ms. Montgomery, there’s a cat outside.”

Two of my students stared at me.

“Go and get it,” I said, immediately rethinking that idea after they’d left the room. I hoped the cat wasn’t mean or scared and left the kids with bloody gashes. I tried to stop them, but they were gone.

A short time later they returned, sans cat. “We couldn’t catch it,” they said in unison.

“OK.” I was relieved, but just momentarily.

“It’s so hot out there and the cat is panting.”

I looked at the sweet girl who tried to rescue the animal. “Is it hurt?”

“I don’t know.”

Crap! I’ve had more kitties than I can count over the years. Strays and cats who’d wound up in shelters. But I didn’t want another one. I still had three furry felines – down from seven – most of whom died after long, pleasant lives. And a big cattle dog, as well.

The problem is, I’m getting older, and whenever I’m faced with a new pet I start doing the math. If said animal lives 15 years, how old will I be? What if I die? Who will take care of them.  While I know my sweetie pie is as devoted to our four-legged friends as I am, what if we both died?

“So, you think the cat might be injured?” I said again.

She shrugged.

“Let’s go.” I led my students outside and found a sleek, black, kitty with big gold eyes. The creature meowed and ran right to me. I picked him up and prepared to be speared with curved, pointy claws, but he just laid his head on my shoulder, clearly no feral beast.

As it was lunchtime, I put the young cat in my office and, as I ate, he jumped into my chair, curled into a ball and slept at my side. “Well, aren’t you a sweet boy.” I patted his head and he purred loudly. I squinted as he closed his eyes. “But I don’t want another cat.” He ignored me.

Later, the girl who found him appeared and said she wanted to take the cat home. “My mom said it would be OK.”

I looked at the kitty and he stared back at me. “Great!” I said, not feeling great at all. “Let’s find a box.”

After we placed the cat in the container, I waved and watched her walk away. I admit, I was a bit sad. Still, I’d done the right thing.

“We found a cat at school today.”

My sweetie pie peered at me over his glasses, then glanced around the room.

“You’ll be proud of me. I found him a nice home.”

He raised both eyebrows, and didn’t have to say, How unlike you to not bring it home.

Later, I thought about the cat and decided to call the girl’s home to make sure he was settling in. Her father answered the phone.

“I don’t want a cat!” he said, an edge to his voice. “I don’t like cats. I don’t want it in my house. If she keeps it, we’ll put it in a cage in the backyard.”

I sat up. It was close to 110 degrees in the Arizona desert that day. “A cage?” I jotted down the address. “I’ll be right there.”

An hour later, I released the kitty in my living room, and he quickly made friends with Westin, my deaf Bombay cat. And then I noticed the similarity. They were almost identical. They nuzzled one another and again I realized this cat was no stray. He belonged to someone. He blinked at me and meowed. “No, my friend. I can’t get attached to you.”

A few days later, the vet waved a hand-held machine over the cat’s shiny fur. My heart beat quickly. A chip would be good,” I told myself. I’ll take him back to his owners, who are surely missing him.

“No chip.” The vet said.

I exhaled, then stared at my new kitty, who the vet informed me was just a baby at ten months old. I started to do the math, then stopped. I realized it didn’t matter that I’d be pushing eighty when he reached 15. As much as I tried to deny it, this cat was mine.

He head butted my hand and stared at me with those huge gold eyes.

We call him Morgan.

A Light in the Desert-cov (6)

Mystery/Suspense

Blank Slate Press/Amphorae Publishing Group

286 Pages

Price: $16.95 Paperback, $9.99 eBook

http://www.midpointtrade.com/book_detail.php?book_id=261955

As a Vietnam veteran and former Special Forces sniper descends into the throes of mental illness, he latches onto a lonely pregnant teenager and a group of Pentecostal zealots – the Children of Light – who have been waiting over thirty years in the Arizona desert for Armageddon. When the Amtrak Sunset Limited, a passenger train en route to Los Angeles, is derailed in their midst in a deadly act of sabotage, their lives are thrown into turmoil. As the search for the saboteurs heats up, the authorities uncover more questions than answers. And then the girl vanishes. As the sniper struggles to maintain his sanity, a child is about to be born in the wilderness.