There were two other fathers standing between him and me. We were all leaning on the fence around field #1 at John Tarlton Park craning to see our sons as they played youth league football and yelling appropriate encouragement. That night was not the first time that I had seen him at the field. He did not seem any different than all the other fathers who were there watching their sons. But he was different. He was Bruce Pearl, the man who was not only restoring the glory of University of Tennessee basketball, but also taking it to new heights.
Leaning on the fence, no one was thinking about basketball. The junior midgets from Karns were playing their counterparts from West. Karns was 10 yards away from scoring a touchdown. The ball was snapped and handed off to the Beaver fullback who happened to be my son. He ran into the line where he was hit hard and stood up. However, he was still on his feet and driving. Just as he reversed his field and spun away from the West defenders, the referee’s whistle sounded. My son trotted meaninglessly into the end zone. The play was already blown dead by a premature whistle.
I was compelled to protest such poor officiating. “Let them play ball.” I thought I was yelling loud enough for the referee to hear, but he failed to acknowledge my complaint. I yelled louder, still nothing. I yelled louder. Finally, he turns to look in my direction, but he does not see me. He sees Bruce Pearl and he is glaring at him scornfully. Bruce shrugs his shoulders and mouths the words, “It wasn’t me, my sons plays for West.” The ref was not convinced. Bruce bore the blame.