Really, it was all my idea.
by Anne Montgomery
I became a sports official to learn about the games
so that I might become a competent sportscaster. It seemed like a good idea,
and yet, during my 15-year reporting career, I never met any other officials
who became broadcasters.
A long time ago, back when I hoped to earn a paycheck in front
of a TV camera, I had what I thought was a moment of brilliance. Why, I opined,
wouldn’t TV networks want to hire sports officials and put them in the
broadcast booth? The idea seemed like a win-win.
Of course, I was a tad biased. I had taken five years and
learned to officiate five sports: football, baseball, ice hockey, soccer, and
basketball. All with the hope that my new-found on-field expertise might
wrangle me a job as a sportscaster. While blowing whistles and calling balls
and strikes did eventually help me get my foot in the sports journalism world,
I never in 15 years as a reporter meet any other broadcasters from the
When I was a SportsCenter anchor at ESPN, I suggested
it might be a good idea to put former officials in the broadcast booth. My
colleagues thought I was crazy.
Fast forward to today, where former officials are now miced up
and sharing their thoughts on calls with the viewing public. That makes me want
to hop into Mr. Peabody’s Wayback Machine and confront my old colleagues at
“It would be great,” I explained in the newsroom back in 1990.
“You could put officials in the booth and they could explain why certain calls
"You know, clear up confusion for the viewers.”
My remarks, as I recall, were met by head shakes indicating that
I was certainly out of my mind. Who would ever want to listen to sports
officials speak? They intimated.
Fast forward thirty years and there they are, with the NFL
leading the way. Former officials and now rules analysts Mike Pereira, Dean
Blandino, and Terry McAulay, among others. Then there’s Gene Steratore, who
along with his 15-year NFL career spent 20 years calling college basketball
games and is now an analyst for both sports.
The question is, what took the networks so long? Sports rules
are complicated. Don’t believe me? Ask someone to explain what constitutes a
catch is in football. Or the reasoning behind and execution of an infield fly
in baseball. Or the difference between a foul ball and a foul tip. Or when
icing is waved off in hockey. Or how to tell a charge from a block in
basketball. Or what constitutes traveling. Oh, wait. No one calls that anymore.
While fans might better understand their favorite
sports by listening to former officials in the booth, maybe they're happier just
arguing about the rules.
Anyway, if you don’t believe me, pick up a rule book. Just read
one page. I dare you. Rules and their corresponding diagrams can sometimes look
like hieroglyphics with descriptions written by folks from MENSA. So why not
hire people who study those books for a living? Then they can dumb down the
rules to make them more digestible to the viewing public.
Then again, many fans thrive on controversy and arguing about
calls is high on their list of entertaining things to do. Maybe if they
actually understood the rules, some of the fun might be drained out of sports
As a purist, I think it's better to truly understand the rules,
but since I spent four decades as an amateur official, I'm clearly more than a
Here is a peek at one of my women's fiction novels. I hope you enjoy it.
A woman flees an abusive husband and finds hope in the wilds of the Arizona dessert.
Rebecca Quinn escapes her controlling husband and, with nowhere
else to go, hops the red-eye to Arizona. There, Gaby Strand – her aunt’s
college roommate – gives her shelter at the Salt River Inn, a 1930’s guesthouse
located in the wildly beautiful Tonto National Forest.
Becca struggles with post-traumatic stress, but is enthralled by
the splendor and fragility of the Sonoran Desert. The once aspiring artist
meets Noah Tanner, a cattle rancher and beekeeper, Oscar Billingsley, a retired
psychiatrist and avid birder, and a blacksmith named Walt. Thanks to her new
friends and a small band of wild horses, Becca adjusts to life in the desert
and rekindles her love of art.
Then, Becca’s husband tracks her down, forcing her to summon all
her strength. But can she finally stop running away?
has worked as a television sportscaster, newspaper and magazine writer, teacher, amateur baseball umpire, and high school football referee. She worked at WRBL‐TV in Columbus, Georgia, WROC‐TV in Rochester, New York, KTSP‐TV in Phoenix, Arizona, ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut, where she anchored the Emmy and ACE award‐winning SportsCenter, and ASPN-TV as the studio host for the NBA’s Phoenix Suns. Montgomery has been a freelance and staff writer for six publications, writing sports, features, movie reviews, and archeological pieces.
When she can, Anne indulges in her passions: rock collecting, scuba diving, football refereeing, and playing her guitar.
Learn more about Anne Montgomery
on her website
. Stay connected on Facebook
, and Twitter