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Published: Sunday, 4/1/2007

Official knew when to blow whistle

Larry Brown, a 59-year-old Perrysburg resident, spent 25 years as an official in the high school and college ranks. Larry Brown, a 59-year-old Perrysburg resident, spent 25 years as an official in the high school and college ranks.

In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade s sports section. Blade sports writer Donald Emmons talked with Perrysburg resident Larry Brown, a former college and high school basketball official who spent a quarter of a century blowing a whistle to keep order on the basketball court. He hung up his basketball officials uniform back in 1994 and today he s co-owner of the East of Chicago Pizza establishment located in Levis Commons.

Larry Brown has long removed himself from wearing the striped shirts associated with basketball officials.

The 59-year-old Perrysburg resident served 25 years running up and down basketball courts as a referee. He worked high school games, boys and girls. He blew his whistle at college men s and women s contests.

Brown, who worked in the insurance business around the same time he worked as an official, probably put in enough laps up and down basketball courts for his career to add up to running a few marathons.

An avid sports fan, he enjoyed the time on the court as much as the players and coaches. He officiated high school games primarily for leagues throughout northwest Ohio. He served as an official in the Mid-American Conference from 1985 to 1994. His resume included officiating championship games in high school and at the college level. He once ejected former Ball State coach Rick Majerus from a game with the University of Toledo after the coach protested a call.

All in all, officiating allowed Brown the opportunity to participate in athletics throughout his adult life.

He is married to Bobbi and has five grown children; three daughters Tracey, Tina, and Kris and two sons, Keith and Greg. Both sons have spent time working as officials at one point or another. Greg is in his second season serving as a minor league baseball official in the Gulf Coast League.

IT WAS 25 years of enjoyment. It was a lot of work and a lot of camaraderie. It was a lot of family support from my wife and kids and that s probably the biggest thing. I told my wife I d retire after 25 years and I did.

TODAY I M MORE of a fan. My first game I went to after I quit officiating was at Fostoria High School. I went to watch my son play and I was screaming at the officials and my wife grabbed me by the back of my belt and pulled me to my chair and said, Shut up.

I M A SPORTS PERSON. Officials are human beings too, and they have families too. They have other jobs. It s not a vocation, it s something they just really enjoy doing. Anybody can be an official, but you have to be an athlete and have to have a lot of knowledge about sports.

I WOULD SAY 99 percent of the time you don t hear the fans because you re so involved in the games. Coaches, you basically don t give too much response to them. They really have to get vulgar.

[RICK MAJERUS] WAS coaching Ball State. He was screamming and yelling at me and using profanity here and there. He gave me no alternative but to [eject him]. He knocked over one of those big water buckets at UT on his way out [of Savage Hall]. He was upset but he knew what he was doing.

I VE EJECTED FANS before. There s no need for using profanity and stuff like that.

I STARTED OFFICIATING when it was a two-man system. It was a good system for years and years. I think today they allow too much contact, too much hand stuff.

I ALWAYS STARTED training in August-September to get back in shape to prepare for a season. The basketball season can take a toll on you. In 1983 I worked 110 games between high school boys and girls games and college games that season. I was pretty tired after that season.

EARLY IN MY [career] you had to make a decision about becoming a high school boys official or high school girls official and then you would be labeled either way. College ball is more exciting. It s a more intense game. You have to be ready for it.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.comor 419-724-6302.

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