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Jon’s PostLife Crisis: Lewie Curtis - High School Officiating And Your Job As A Fan

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 USF at Georgia Tech Photo by Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This episode I talk with Lewie Curtis, the Director of Officials for the Iowa High School Athletic Association.

We talk about:

  • How to become a high school official - referee
  • What’s involved in officiating
  • The biggest challenge facing high school sports in the next 10 years
  • How retention of officials is a big problem
  • My high school glory days - because this is all I have

About the Transcript

Keep in mind that the following is a transcript. . I use a service that automates the first draft. As much as “artificial intelligence” is included in the description of every bit of technology these days, it’s clear that computers understanding human speech is more artificial than intelligent. The transcript has been edited to take out human speech bites, you know, um, okay, uh, but it’s not been edited to be an “article”.

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Jon Johnston 0:11 Welcome to Jon’s Post-Life Crisis. I am your host, Jon Johnston, founder of, your Nebraska Cornhuskers site of terrific fun, even though we lost the Colorado last weekend. Today we’re talking with Lewie Curtis, the director of high school officials for the Iowa High School Athletic Association. How are you doing today, Mr. Curtis?

Lewie Curtis 1:12

I’m doing great, Jon. Thanks for thanks for giving me an opportunity to share some information about officiating and we’re doing doing well here in Boone, Iowa.

Jon Johnston 1:23 Did your team lose to Colorado last weekend?

Lewie Curtis 1:27

My team won at Kinnick stadium last weekend.

Jon Johnston 1:36 Oh, you’re one of those.

Lewie Curtis 1:37

Yeah. And actually, I had the good fortune to be able to attend the game. So came across some tickets from a gentleman who is a Big Ten football official. And he’s also the director of officials for the state of Minnesota. So he was coming to do the Rutgers Iowa game. And in got me in. So yeah, it was a lot of fun. And Hawks played well. And we actually were after the game watching the Nebraska, the Nebraska finish and right, right about the time Nebraska was lining up to go for their overtime field goal. Some for some reason, somebody in the restaurant decided to switch over to the UNI game. So we didn’t we didn’t get to see that. We didn’t get to see the end of that. But too bad for them.

Jon Johnston 2:35 Yeah, well, it sucked. But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. We’re here to talk about high school officiating. And I know nothing about this, which is why it’s kind of interesting to me, I guess, because, you know, sports has all different levels at the end. I mean, I have a friend of mine who has a power five, official, I think he’s a line judge and I know that he had to start out and literally work his way up from Division III to Division II and work that way up. And I assume that a lot of these guys start at the high school level.

Lewie Curtis 3:18

Yeah, I think so. I think that’s, that’s kind of where everybody gets started. I don’t think there’s anybody that can just jump right into college officiating. I think you have to get you know, cut your teeth a little bit. First. We have a lot of a lot of officials in Iowa that are registered with the Iowa High School Athletic Association. But they also work the Iowa colleges. We have a lot of Division III colleges in Iowa, small school, some NAIA. So there’s a there’s a definite need for college officials as well. Just not as many games obviously, as there are in high school. But you work your way up through the ranks. And if you’re if you’re good enough, and I think also if you are willing to take the time and put the time and effort into studying and knowing because there’s a there’s a big difference between not only the level of play, and the speed at which the game is played, but also the rule books are, are pretty there’s there’s a number of significant rule differences between NCAA and the NFHS rules.

Jon Johnston 4:45 So how does, how does one actually start this process? How do you become a high school official?

Lewie Curtis 4:50

Yep. So in Iowa, there’s, there’s really, that, you know, the number one thing is you have to have an interest in wanting to do it. So once you’ve kind of expressed an interest, then really, all you have to do is get on our website, and basically sign up and register to be an official. So you pay a fee, fill out some, you know, some registration information. And you pay a $50 fee. And you can become an official at that point. Or try to become an official, there’s two other things that you really have to do. You, after you pay your fee, you’re going to you’re going to receive, you know, rule book, case book, and an officials manual. So there’s going to be some studying that you have to do.

And then you have to view an online rules meeting, which we put on our website as well, coaches have to view that same rules meeting head coaches have to view it every year as, as do officials at all levels for our officials. So if you’re just a junior high official, you still have to watch the rules meeting if you’re a varsity official, you have to watch the rules meeting. And then after you watch the rules meeting you you go into your account, and you have to take the rules exam, and it’s a 50 question test. And you have to pass pass that exam with a 76% or higher, so you have to get 38 out of the 50 questions correct in order to pass. And if you pass the exam, and watch that rules meeting then you you are registered and licensed to officiate school, you know, basically seventh grade through 12th grade in that sport.

And you’re able to do that for three years.

Prior to the start of your third year, you have to you have to do the same things over again every year, you know, you have to go back in and pay the $50 fee, you have to watch the new rules meeting you have to take the exam every year, you have to keep doing that. But then eventually, we require the people who are going to be varsity officials to attend a UN officials, we call it we just call them clinics, it’s an officials mechanics clinic talks in that in that clinic, there’s a lot of discussion about you know, like, if you’re a football official, it’s maybe your position. So if you’re a line judge or if you’re an umpire, if you’re a referee, you know, they’ll they’ll have breakout sessions and talk about your specific position and how you should, you know, things you should Kian and look at and watch for and places that you should be position that that sort of thing, in addition to, you know, new rule changes, or just important current things that officials need to know. So that mechanics clinic basically allows you to stay as a varsity level official. And you only have to attend that one time for us in Iowa to be able to stay varsity level.

And then beyond that.

If you want to work for the High School Athletic Association, not just the regular schools, and you want to do our postseason, you know, our playoff games or our tournament games, you have to attend those clinics, we we put them on every year, we have about five or six of them every year throughout the state. And so you would have to attend one of those at least every three years. Kind of like a I look at it as continuing education. So you have to continue your education in order for us to hire you to work for us in those postseason games. So yeah,

Jon Johnston 9:21 You mentioned a case book. What is a case book?

Lewie Curtis 9:25

So a case book is it’s kind of mirrors the rule book, the rule book will sit there and say, okay, rule 5-15-4 says, Whatever, whatever that rule is, and then the case book, if you look under 5 -15-4, there are examples of things that might happen in a game that, that apply that this rule applies to. And so it might be, you know, if it’s a football situation, it might say something like, well, I’ve got the case book right in front of me, it might say, find one that’s kind of A1 takes his position over the ball, and places both hands on the ball. So this is a offensive, probably like the offensive Center, the ready for play signal has not been given be one breaks the plane of the neutral zone. They want to know what’s the ruling on that. So the center puts his hands on the ball. The ready for place signal has not been given and then the defensive player jumps across the neutral zone.

So then they have to decide okay, well is that encroachment? Is it the offsides or not? Well, the ruling is there’s no foul. Encroachment restrictions are not in effect before the ready for place signal has been given. So there’s the that’s an that’s a case book example of a play that might happen. Okay. In the in the rule book, it’s going to say, what is that rule? You know, and in that, in that, in the rule book, that one says, following the ready for play, and after the snapper has placed his hands on the ball encroachment occurs, if any other player breaks the plane of the neutral zone, a defensive player makes contact with the ball prior to the end of the snap. So that’s the that’s what the rule reads. Well, then the case book is simply real situations that might happen. And then they hit and then they share what that ruling actually is.

Jon Johnston 11:55 It’s kind of like a study guide.

Lewie Curtis 11:57

Absolutely. Yep.

Jon Johnston 11:59 I’ve seen this. I’ve seen these at the NCAA level. And I can’t remember where but some of these things are really nasty. I suppose you get into, you know, you get into positions during games where it’s pretty contentious also. So

Lewie Curtis 12:15

There’s a lot of complexity and little subtleties to the rule that the case book tries to address. And it’s really important for officials to study, not only the rule book, but the case book really, is the application of the rules, what it’s going to look like when you go out on a field, you know, because now you you can you can say what the rule is. But if you don’t know what that looks like on a play, or how to apply the rules to that play, then it doesn’t do you much good.

Jon Johnston 12:54 So these guys, these guys get paid to officiate games.

Lewie Curtis 12:58

Yeah, the high school level officials, junior high level officials, yeah, they’re paid, the schools will hire them to, you know, the schools will hire them to come and work for them. Similar to you know, they’d hire, hire an electrician to come in, and make sure the light switches are working properly, well, they’re going to hire football officials or basketball officials or wrestling officials to come in. And, you know, make sure that the rules are being followed during that game. And, and manage the, you know, manage the people that are involved in the game, and then they get a, you know, they get a check for little bit of money after they work.

Jon Johnston 13:47 So there’s a degree of familiarity. In other words typically a high school will hire the same official, I’m assuming year after year after year.

Lewie Curtis 13:57

Yeah, let you see that a lot. Yeah. You know, because location is going to play a big part of that, you know, you can’t have a six o’clock start, and think that you’re going to have an official that is going to come out to your school to work for a couple hours that lives two hours away. You know, if there’s a six o’clock start on some game, they’re probably going to want to be there half hour to 45 minutes before the game ever starts. And depending on the sport, maybe even longer than that. You know, so travel time, and, and what time does that person get off work? And so there’s, there’s a lot of lot of local, you know, you need you need local people to be able to pull all that off, you know, but officials, you know, it’s not unusual for officials to, to drive an hour hour and a half to, to go do a game.

Jon Johnston 14:59 So are there plenty officials to go around?

Lewie Curtis 15:04

Well, in certain areas of Iowa, I think there are enough officials, you know, around the Des Moines area, there’s just a lot of people. And there’s a lot of officials in the Cedar Rapids area, there’s a lot of officials. But, you know, you go into Southwest Iowa, Northwest, Iowa, southeast Iowa, where there’s not as many big cities or good sized communities, you know, there’s just not as many officials in those areas. And there’s just as many if not more schools, because there’s a lot of small schools that need they need officials to and you know, there’s a lot of schools in those areas that are playing a lot of games, and there’s just not a lot of officials there. And so the the I think were the biggest issue, comes up with numbers of officials is in the rural areas. And then also, you know, where, where you you’re starting games earlier in the in the day, so you have a junior high game starting at 430? Well, it’s hard to find people that can come and work football at 430, or a basketball game at 430. Because they’re still at work themselves. So, you know, it’s, it’s it’s a complex issue.

Jon Johnston 16:36 Is this is the shortage because it’s just harder for people to be officials? Or is it because they’re just decreasing population in the rural areas?

Lewie Curtis 16:46

Well, I think that I think the rural areas feel it, that they’re just as a decreasing population is is a huge part of it. I think there’s also There has also been,

you know, a lot of

there’s been a lot of negativity in the officiating world. You know, you just, I think there’s a belief that the minute you walk onto a field with stripes on, you’re supposed to be flawless, you can’t make mistakes. And if you make mistakes, then people don’t like it. And they’re not afraid to voice their displeasure. And so, you know, if you’re a, if you’re a brand new official, it’s never done it before, and you’re just trying to learn how to do something. And you do something that’s not quite right, like a, like a seasoned veteran might understand. You have to learn that somehow. And in your learning process, if you’re getting challenged, or you’re getting confronted or yelled at. You sometimes might think, I don’t know if I really want to keep doing this. So I think the I think the plight of the official is that, a they have to come in knowing that some of that’s going to happen. But I think there also has to be some change from the fans and from the coaches and from players. And even administrators maybe who need to understand, gosh, we need to back off a little bit and let let guys work and let guys try to do their best and accept some of the, whether you agree with a call or not, you just sometimes you just need to accept it and say, thanks for being here.

Jon Johnston 18:54 I have a daughter, who, all three kids have three of my kids played soccer, competitive soccer, and my daughter was an official for one year. She was officiating, because I coached soccer I went over to watch her officiate this kid’s game, literally like five year olds kids. And it was a hot day. And she blew the whistle about three minutes early and called the game early. And a fully grown adult male coach walked over and started screaming in her face. And I looked at her and because.... any kind of movement by him, and I’d have killed him. And I just watched to see what a reaction is. And she just stood there and let him yell at her. And she just looked at him like, you know, a teenage daughter would look at her dad, like you’re an ass. That’s all she did until he got tired. You can’t scream at somebody forever.

There were two incidents like that there was another incident which two mothers went after her because two little five year old kids ran into each other, and there was a murder committed on the field right there, and, and then the next year, I said, are you going to be an official again, and she looks at me and she just goes, she’s shrugs and she goes, it’s not even worth it dad. That’s the kind of thing that that’s where it starts really, isn’t it? Mm hmm. The difficulty and having these guys grow up.

Lewie Curtis 20:20

I think we we at the Athletic Association level, where we are trying to get young people to think about and consider officiating, we would say to them, you know, you don’t want to throw yourself into, you know, a game that’s at such a level that you can’t handle it. So you would think that youth sports, you know, 5, 8, 10 year old kids, you can handle their level of play. And, and deal with the simplicity of the game that they’re playing versus the complexity of the game that, 16 to 22 year olds are playing. It’s just a different game that they’re playing. The problem with that is the the youth level games that are out there, they don’t have the high school principal supervising the crowd, they don’t have the athletic director there helping the officials get to a locker room or taking them to and from their car, or supporting them. If they need support from a supervisor. They’re there a lot of times left out there just like your the way you describe your daughter’s situation. She’s out there by herself. And who’s there to help her. Obviously, on that one day you were you were there if you needed to be there. But you might not be there to watch her officiate. And 99% of the people there are there to watch the little kids play, or to cheer for the little kids. And then when they lose their minds over a call that somebody has to make, who’s there to help that one person who’s making that call and that so the environment might not be the best environment for them to be doing those things. Because it might be better for them to be at a junior varsity soccer game, even though the kids are older and the players a little faster. But you know what, there’s, there’s people from the school there that are being paid to supervise and control the crowd and control the control that environment so that that doesn’t happen as much still happens.

But maybe not as much.

Jon Johnston 23:13 You’re a director of the entire state of officials for Iowa, right?

Lewie Curtis 23:18

Yeah, that’s correct.

Jon Johnston 23:19 Okay. So there has to be like conventions or meetings where you meet other directors from other states, right?

Lewie Curtis 23:26

Yeah, we have a, we have a Midwest official summit, we call it and it’s basically the directors of officials from each of our organizations, we have about over 10 or 11 states ranges from, you know, Kansas, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Illinois, Indiana, this year, our summit is in Louisville, Kentucky, which is basically the farthest East we go for our Midwest officials. So it ranges from, you know, Kentucky, over to Nebraska, and all those states in between. and we Yeah, we get together for a few days and kind of talk about, you know, talk about issues that we face, and we all face very similar issues.

Jon Johnston 24:16 Well, what is the biggest issue that you face?

Lewie Curtis 24:20

Well, I think the biggest issue is it’s recruiting and retention of officials. I mean, I think, and I and I have said, I’ve been in this job for three and a half years. And I have said probably for the last three years. Our biggest issue isn’t recruiting officials, it’s retaining officials, we lose officials at a at an alarming rate, I would say two out of three, maybe three out of four, who are new to officiating, do not officiate again, after their second year, first or second year of giving it a shot. So, if you if you bring in 100 new officials, and you’re feeling pretty good, okay, we got 100 brand new officials, and then a year later, only 25 of them come back. That’s that’s just not good.

Jon Johnston 25:25 Is it that bad?

Lewie Curtis 25:27

Yes. Yeah, it’s about a, it’s about a two thirds to three fourths, you know, 65 to 75% of officials get into the get into officiating, and within their third year before their third year starts. That’s about how many of them we lose.

Jon Johnston 25:50 That’s quite a bit.

Lewie Curtis 25:52

Yep. Yep. So when us, you know, so So if you think about it, if you lose retiring officials, not quitting officials, but retiring, I’m, 70 years old, I’m 75 years old, I’m getting, I need to quit officiating, because I’m retiring from doing it. If you lose 10 of those guys, of those people.

And you think, how do we replace them? Well, you can’t replace them with 10 new officials, because six or seven of those are going to be gone in a year. So you need to have like 30 or 40, that are replacing the 10. Because you figure, you know, 20, or 30 of those people are going to be gone. You know, that’s how you gotta get to take care of those 10. You need probably triple the number to come in our, or you have to figure out how do we not lose so many if we’re getting, if we’re getting 30, but we’re only retaining eight of them. Well, we’re now we’re losing numbers. How do we not retain eight? How do we how do we retain 18? How do we retain 28? You know, and those are difficult things to figure out. Because there’s a lot of different reasons why people can’t officiate any longer. Some of it is definitely sports, sportsmanship or their experience was not pleasant. And they decided they don’t want to do that anymore. But but for some of them, it’s you know, they might have change in their life that causes them to not be able to do it, you know, they might have a new job, that they can’t get off work in time. They might have, maybe they’re, newlyweds, and they’ve got a new child, and they just can’t be gone as frequently because there is some time commitments to officiating for sure. So it’s a lot of things. Some of the things you have zero control over. So you try to try to work with the things that you feel like you might have a little control over.

Jon Johnston 28:29 All right, we’re gonna change focus a little bit.

Well, let me ask you this. If you have like an eighth grade, high school football game, and you don’t have officials, there’s no game is there?

Lewie Curtis 28:43

No, no.

Jon Johnston 28:45 So is that a problem?

Lewie Curtis 28:48

Yeah, we’ve had some games get canceled because of lack of being able to find officials certainly have had that happen. Around the country there have been some Friday night football games that have been canceled, you know, varsity football games that have been postponed to, we’ve got to either play them on Thursday night, or we have to play them on Saturday afternoon or Saturday morning. Because we don’t have officials for Friday night, not enough of them. Now, we haven’t really had that issue yet in Iowa that I am aware of, at least as far as not being able to play because of the officials. We have had some definite problems with that as far as lower level games, so not being able to find officials, for a freshman baseball game or for a junior varsity football game. Yeah, that’s, that’s happened. So those those kinds of things are happening as we speak. And as part of the reason why we have to keep working on trying to retain and recruit new officials, because we obviously don’t want that to be the trend. But it’s not an easy fight to fight.

Jon Johnston 30:14 Okay, there’s, there’s a lot made nowadays about brain injuries in football and sports overall. Is there any duty on the part of a of an official to say that a player is injured needs to lead the field?

Lewie Curtis 30:32

Yeah, so in Iowa, there’s Iowa code that requires the officials or the coaches to identify whether or not they are seeing symptoms or signs of a concussion. And if they see symptoms, or signs of a concussion, they are required by law to remove that player from the game so that they can be examined by a health care professional, and they can’t return to that game until the health care professional has had a chance to examine them and says there is not a concussion there, they get maybe get shook up a little bit or not knock the wind out of them, or, maybe it’s they hurt their shoulder and it looked like they were going down, and feel the maybe the official might have thought they thought they got hit in the head or something. But it was maybe a different body part, or whatever the case may be.

So they do have to, by law, take somebody out if they observe those signs and symptoms of a concussion, other injuries know, if a kid rolls his ankle, and as hobbling around out there, the official doesn’t have any requirement to say you can’t be in the game. Now, if he, if he rolls his ankle and he goes down and they and they can’t continue the game because there’s a player down on the field, then that player has to come off has to come off of the field. But you know, by rule, but as far as like if they just see somebody that looks like they’re hurt, not a head injury, not a concussion possibility, but you know, they’re they’re limping. The official doesn’t have to take them off, the coach doesn’t have to take them off.

They might choose to take them off, because they’d rather have somebody out there who, who can, you know, we can run faster or something like that without without hobbling. But, you know, in all, in all sports, kids, you know, kids want to kids want to stay out there. And if and sometimes they play through those injuries, but if it’s a head injury, a neck injury, anything like that, there’s there’s no, you know, there’s no leeway for that they have to be removed.

Jon Johnston 33:22 So is there any kind of training available for them to recognize the symptoms or recognize what they’re see on the field?

Lewie Curtis 33:30

Yeah, so every year, in as part of the rules meetings that I referenced earlier, officials and coaches have to watch. There is there’s always a part of that, that is strictly set aside for concussion protocol things, things to look for, how how might you identify concussion? What are the symptoms? What are the things that you need to be looking for, and then also, a very good stern reminder that you are by law required to look for these things and, and be aware of these things. And if you notice them, you’ve got to get that kid out of there. And for coaches, that’s also the case, in practice. So officials are really obviously officials can’t observe that stuff, except for in their games. The coaches have to observe that stuff in practice and in games.

So there’s some training there, there’s also we also, guide, people to the National Federation has some different learning opportunities. And the concussion in sports is a is an online video online, learning opportunities to take and take that as well, it’s not a required thing that they do. But we always suggest that that might be something that they that they want to do. Coaches of the schools are required to watch a concussion video every year, all coaches who are who are licensed in Iowa, are required to watch that concussion course every year. So coaches have a little more of a required training officials. It’s not required, it’s but we do guide them towards the same things that this coaches have to watch.

Jon Johnston 35:55 What do you think the biggest challenge is going to be over the next 10 years of high school sports?

Lewie Curtis 36:02

Well, I think declining participation is is a is a big concern right now. Football, you know, you’re seeing people you’re seeing kids just not participate as much. And I think the the risk of injury, the concern for that is real. And that’s something that is constantly being looked at and addressed. And trying to trying to find ways to make the game safer. The rules of the game are changing and evolving, to try to help with that. So, one good example of that is the blindside hit, which used to be, you know, back in, you know, the, you can say back in our day, hit where, you still somebody just get decleated, you know,

Jon Johnston 37:05 I was an offensive guard, and it was my favorite play. Because, you pulled and you went around and you knew the linebacker was looking at the quarterback, he wasn’t looking at you. So you just slaughter the guy.

It was one of the greatest feelings of my young life.

Lewie Curtis 37:22

That’s exactly right. And now, by rule, those hits need to be taken out of the game. And so that rule has kind of changed and evolved here over the last, you know, 4,5,6 years, is now in order for you to make that block, you have to do it with an with an open hand and your arms. Your arms have to be extended away from your body. So you can still hit the guy, you can still knock the guy down. But you just can’t launch yourself into him with your shoulder and your helmet and, and be smacking him in the side of the head and

Jon Johnston 38:07 The forearm shiver,

Lewie Curtis 38:08

Right. There you go.

Jon Johnston 38:11 Bringing your arms up and smashing the guy as hard as you could.

Lewie Curtis 38:14

Right? So here’s what you’re trying to be taken out of the trying to be taken out of the game. And that’s, that’s really it is a good thing. It should. If those things don’t belong in the game, you can still make that block and spring your running back or get your quarterback outside of the pocket, all that kind of stuff by sealing the blocker by sealing the tackler pushing the tackler away. You don’t have to just blow him up.

Jon Johnston 38:47 Where’s the fun in that? I get it. I get it. I mean,

Lewie Curtis 38:53

Here’s you get here’s what you got to think. What if you’re the guy getting blown up? fun in that? I don’t have to get blown up.

Jon Johnston 39:04 Well, that’s true. As much as fun as the other one was that other part was one of the more miserable things.

Lewie Curtis 39:12

Exactly, exactly.

Jon Johnston 39:15 I used to just to be fair to the guys I hit I used to scream at them one or two steps before I hit them. Okay, enough of high school, my somewhat glory days.

Lewie Curtis 39:26

You’re such a sportsman.

Jon Johnston 39:28 I wasn’t that good an athlete, but I get to play because I grew up in western Nebraska. All right, what are we missing? What haven’t I asked, that you think people should know more about?

Lewie Curtis 39:41

Well, you know, I think thatone of the things that everybody has to just really be aware of is, and it’s, it’s hard because you get so wrapped up in, they’re your kids. But I think the thing that everybody really needs to be aware of is the what the role that everybody plays, in sports. And when you’re when you when you attend a game, and you’re a fam, you’re cheering for your team. And I feel like over the last, you know, decade, or maybe it maybe it’s been going on longer than that, but it feels like there’s been a change in philosophy and belief of what a fan is. And the fan is a person who you know, taunts the opponent, or who booze, the referees call. And they and they believe that, that that’s helping their team. And I just have a, I just have a problem with that belief. Because to me, I think what helps your team is raising the spirit of your team, raising the level of play of your team. So cheering for your team. And being a supporter for your team, is how you want to improve your team, not breaking down somebody else or burying somebody else or, or intimidating somebody else. So that they don’t do their job as well. Or that so that they cower down to what you want. I just think that’s the wrong way to go about it. The right way to go about it is we want, we want you to play your best. We want to play our best, then we want to win. But we’re going to win because we’re better we play better we did a better job and not have it be because you know, we caused you to not be able to play well as fans, not as the other team. The other team’s job is to stop you from playing well. You know what I’m saying?

Jon Johnston 42:29 Yes, I do.

Lewie Curtis 42:30

I just think that’s a, I think that’s something that is a personal choice that every individual has to make is - why am I going to this game. And for me, I go to the game. I go to any game? Well, I have different reasons to go to games. You know, sometimes I’m going to the games to literally watch the officials work. And I’m there in a working environment to help observe and evaluate and try to help them improve. But if I’m going to you know, when I went to when I went last Saturday to Kinnick Stadium, I went for one reason. Because I wanted to cheer for Iowa. I didn’t want to boo Rutgers. And I didn’t want to yell at referees. I wanted to cheer for Iowa. That’s the only reason I went to the game. And I wish people I wish all people would go in and say, the reason I’m going is because I want to cheer for the Eagles. Or I want to cheer for, you know, the Huskers.

And and you know, generally, I think when you think about that, when you think about going to Memorial Stadium, and there’s you know, 98,000 people there every Saturday, probably 95,000 of them probably do go in with that intention of cheering, just cheering for the Huskers. There’s probably a couple thousand who think, man, I’m going to make life miserable on Colorado, or Iowa State or Iowa or Texas or whoever’s coming to town. And that and those people get drowned out for the most part, but then add in one call that’s questionable. And all the sudden, every the 98,000 that was dominated by 95 or 96,000, people suddenly, just with one call can turn. And it becomes, you know, hollering and yelling and booing at the referee because the call didn’t go their way. And it’s just, it kind of drives me nuts sometimes to have to sit and watch that.

Jon Johnston 45:11 I find it astonishing that anybody would do this anymore to be honest with you. I mean, it’s just the the amount of I mean, I shoot photography, sometimes I’m down on the field at Nebraska during a game and it’s a giant battery. It’s like, so much energy that you can feel just in the air, like an electricity when the stadium is going insane. And I cannot imagine being a guy that has to make calls in that situation and have 98,000, that I that’s just, it’s too much for me.

Lewie Curtis 45:44

So this is how I see it is in that at that level. When you’re when you’re doing things at that level, you are ultra competitive. You you have, you’ve really worked hard to get to where you are, and I’m talking about the coaches, and the players. And the officials, they have all worked extremely hard to get to that level. And they’ve obviously done things very, very well to be able to be allowed to be in that environment. So those eight officials or seven officials, however many are out on the field. Those people are really, really good at what they do. But 90, you know, 93,000 of the people in the stadium are cheering for one team. And those eight, those eight people, they’re not cheering for either team. They are simply cheering to get the call right as best as they can. And so when the call when they feel like they got the call, right? Or they tried to get it right. And they might even know that I don’t think I really got that one, right. But that’s the call I made and I have to live with that call right now. Those 90,000 aren’t going to be happy with it. And they choose to let people know now trade that off, go back to go back to being a high school official, or a junior varsity official, or the five year old soccer game official, you know, that same mentality from the fans should not be there, that these the people working those games aren’t the best of the best.

They’re just people who want to help and who want to, you know, stay involved in the sport who want to help kids so that they can play and the but the attitude of some fans not and not that not the majority of fans, it’s a small minority, but it only takes one or two to ruin the environment. That’s where people need to check themselves and say, Gosh, we’re we’re here because we have kids that like to play this sport. And my job as a fan should just just be to come and cheer for kids. Just come and watch them let them play. And and everybody else will do their part, the coaches will coach the kids and, and try to make them better the kids will go out and play and, and try to do the best job they can from what they’ve practiced. And the officials will go out and try to apply the rules appropriately as best as they can. So that the kids stay safe. And that the game, you know is fairly contested. And that’s it. And and the fans. Their role is to go and watch and to cheer.

It seems pretty simple, but it just doesn’t happen that way.

Jon Johnston 49:17 No it doesn’t. All right. I think that that’s a good point to end on. You’re a busy guy. And I’m certainly loved by so many people that I’m a busy guy. So we’re going to end here. I want to thank you coming on the program. And I think it was certainly interesting. It was informative to me. I’d wish you luck with your football team and Kinnick but not really that much luck. So thank you, Lewie for talking to me.

Lewie Curtis 49:50

You’re welcome.

Jon Johnston 49:51 Take care and that is this episode of Jon’s Post-life Crisis. Thank you all for listening.