Late last week the Inland Empire Football Officials Association held its end of the year banquet. This event served as a time for the association’s 100 football officials in the city of Spokane to get together as a group, enjoy some good food, listen to a guest speaker, and hand out a few awards. At the very end of the night they presented the biggest and most important honor, the coveted Official of the Year award. With his wife seated right next to him, Tom Reser heard his name called.
Last Thursday night my mom sent out a joyful text message to the three of us kids declaring the good news that our dad had won Official of the Year. All by myself in my apartment I immediately got a beaming smile across my face and my eyes watered up. I took a couple minutes to let the pride and emotion that I felt settle in my body before I composed a congratulations text to my dad. Later that night when my dad and mom returned home from his well-deserved moment in the spotlight I got to call him and tell him how I proud I was. He had done it.
After twenty-nine years as a football official, twenty-seven of those coming in the IEFOA, my dad had achieved the highest honor that he possibly could at the high school (and everything underneath) football level. You might say I am a bit biased being his son and all, but let me tell you, no one could have been more deserving than my dad.
It is proven: You do something better when you are passionate about it. My dad is, and always has been, passionate about officiating football. I grew up with my dad coming and going in his stripes. By the age of six I knew every single football hand signal because he took the time and displayed the amazing patience to teach me. My dad would slip me into one of his referee outfits and with me drowning inside of it I would perform the hand signals exactly as my dad called them out. Probably all the way up until I was twelve years old when someone asked me what my dad did for a living I told them that he was a football official as opposed to mentioning that he worked in administration at the Spokane Veterans’ Affairs Hospital.
When I did start to get older I took more of a notice on how dedicated and involved he was with officiating. A couple months before the season started I would see him studying up on his officials’ manuals. I would see him polishing his officiating shoes rigorously. I would observe him calling other officials to let them know when meetings were. I would go to trade shows with him where he would set up a booth and try to recruit new referees to the association. I would watch him spend his own money on sandwiches and Gatorades for his crew. After working a hotly contested varsity high school game on Friday night I would say goodbye to him on Saturday morning as I went to my own football practice and my dad went out to a dingy complex where he would officiate three straight YMCA fifth grade games.
By the time I was playing high school football my dad had rose to a permanent white hat. He had become well known in the association as a well-respected referee. Because of this I would sometimes vent my frustrations to him when I felt (as most high school football players do) that our team got screwed by the zebras. Even with me taking shots at his fellow officials who he defended to no end, my dad would always take the time to listen to my concerns and then address them. Although my dad couldn’t officiate games that I participated in, he would always do our Mead High School Blue-Gold scrimmage. I always felt honored to share the field with my dad and have my teammates tell me what a cool old man I had.
As I moved away, went to college, and started my career in Missoula, my dad continued to prosper as an official. He received more big time assignments, he was awarded several state playoff games, and he served on the officiating board. In a true show of leadership, my dad took it upon himself to create a sportsmanship traveling trophy. Each year now, the officials get together and vote on a team to win the sportsmanship award. It can be a varsity, JV, or freshmen team. My dad then travels to that squad’s end of the year banquet and surprises the players with the trophy.
I truly believe the pinnacle of my dad’s career came this season though. You see, at the start of this year my dad started a mission to lose weight. With 4:30 a.m. workouts and a strict diet that he followed religiously my dad was successful in his mission and lost 40 pounds. I think it was this final outstanding, selfless, and disciplined effort to improve his officiating and overall life in general that pushed him over the edge and made him the obvious choice for Official of the Year.
My dad has always told my brother and I that his dream is to one day officiate a game with both of us on his crew. Although at this point in my life that is not possible maybe one of these days I will have time to take up officiating and make my dad’s dream come true. Until then , even though he never told me he wanted this, I like to believe another one of his dreams came true last week: He was named the best at what he does, the best at one of his passions. Congrats dad, there is no one who worked harder at it than you. I am so proud of you. Don’t Blink.