Long-time official makes the perfect last call

Perry Warden, who graduated from Tabor College in 1993, recently decided to step away from officiating after 35 years.

I had the privilege of officiating basketball with Warden some years ago, and he was one of the good guys.

Warden gave me permission to share his letter, which should be of interest to anyone involved with sports. Here are some excerpts from that letter.

As a high school and college sports official, I have run up and down countless basketball courts and football fields, stood behind softball and baseball players, and climbed on platforms to referee volleyball. I was called every negative name possible, accused of cheating, had my personal and professional morals/values questioned and challenged; yet, I kept coming back night after night. Why? Because I love it! It is hard to explain to non-officials, so I wrote this letter so that all those who are involved with sports can get an understanding of the personal sacrifices, the mental and emotional strength it takes to be a sports official.

Coaches, players, fans: For my entire career, I went into every game trying to do the impossible; to be perfect. Even though everyone knows that an official will never be 100 percent correct on each call, I worked as hard as I could to reach an implausible and impossible goal: perfection. There has never been an official at any level who wakes up in the morning and hopes that he/she misses multiple calls in the game that night. Do officials make bad calls? Absolutely! Are they done deliberately? Absolutely not!

Parents, do you realize while I was reffing your kids’ games, I was missing my own children’s school activities and family events at home? Officials are sacrificing, by choice, to be with your kids and not our own. So when you question someone’s morals or integrity, make sure you understand what it takes to be an official. Officiating has cost me multiple adult relationships, friends, and more importantly, a stronger bond with my own children.

Officials are just like everyone else, we work full-time jobs and part-time jobs to pay the bills, we all have sick kids, we have mortgages, we all have ups and downs of normal everyday life; yet officials come out every night to do something most people can’t and won’t do; referee. Before you cross the line by verbally and personally attacking an official’s character, motivation or integrity; you might want to question your own first.

To my children: The sacrifices you have made for me will never be appreciated enough, and I want to say I am sorry for all the things I missed while you were growing up. When we were financially struggling, the money I made reffing helped pay for your music lessons, small vacations, new clothes, and at times basic living bills. I truly hope you understand that even though I was doing something I loved to do, I was also doing it for you. I can’t wait for us to be adults together so we can make new memories together and somehow make up for lost time. I love you with all my heart and thank you!

Last by not least, officials: To my brothers and sisters of officiating, I cannot be more appreciative for the amazing fraternity that I have had the honor of being a part of for the past 35 years. There is no greater group of individuals in this entire world that I would rather be associated with than officials.

Everyone has an expiration date. My reasons are due to continuing health issues along with a career change. Plus, I never wanted to be the guy that should have retired 10 years ago.

Officials must stick together, work together, and have each other’s back with intentional integrity in times of adversity, and appreciate each other at all times. This is what I will miss the most, the comaraderie of officiating, the road trips, the lifelong friends, the stories and memories on and off the court. I have been blessed and I will ever be grateful. I will forever be an official.

With this letter, I may not have achieved perfection.

But my last call was perfect! Perry Warden