John F. Russell: Wanted: Refs to help Elvis

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We recognize them by the black and white uniforms they wear on cool Friday nights in fall.

But I have to wonder whether we would recognize them when we pass them in the store or at the post office or when we are walking downtown.

They are the men and women who can hand out justice and be completely wrong at the same time.

The reaction to their calls depends on which side of the line of scrimmage your team is standing on.

They are a small group of men, who give up their weekends in the fall to come out and make sure the football games that are played in Oak Creek, Steamboat Springs, Hayden, Craig and Meeker are fair and safe. The men and women who are willing to officiate high school athletics are a vanishing breed in Northwest Colorado.

It's a concern for area director Elvis Iacovetto, who has dedicated the past 26 years of his life to overseeing high school football games in the fall and basketball games in the winter.

He says it's getting harder to find officials in Northwest Colorado willing to give up their time. Today there are just 12 area officials to cover five high schools.

It's a trend he would like to reverse.

Many of us will question their calls on the field this year, but nobody in sports questions the importance of officials in sports.

They don't expect to hear "thank you" from coaches and fans, but without a crew of dedicated officials, high school football in Northwest Colorado would not be the same.

Iacovetto says he has learned how to tune out the harsh words from coaches and fans. He prefers to focus on his actions on the field. He takes pride in the way he handles tough situations, and thinks his example is a lesson for the young players who surround him.

He played football for the Soroco Rams from 1971 to 1975. But when his high school playing career came to an end, Iacovetto wasn't ready to leave the field.

He returned a few years later to officiate his first high school game and he quickly discovered that being an official is a chance to give back and a chance to be a part of the game.

He hopes more people in this area will step forward and discover that being an official isn't a bad thing. It's a chance to improve high school sports and teach children some important life lessons in the process.

He admits that being a football official takes a certain personality, but he doesn't think that those types of people are a vanishing breed in Northwest Colorado -- the trick is getting them to the football field on a Friday night.

If you think you're

one of those people who would look good in black and white, call Elvis at

736-8308.

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