Behind the stripes

Hall of Fame official Pete Pleasant recalls days in black and white

When former high school football officials are voted into the Colorado Football Officials Association Hall of Fame, they are asked to write down a couple of stories they remember. Craig's Pete Pleasant had so many stories, it was hard to decide which ones he was going to write down.

There was the time when the only football left in the game went into the open window of a locked hut. Another time, two teams showed up wearing jerseys nearly identical in color and one team had to wear practice vests over its jerseys for the game. And then there was the co-worker who blistered his feet because he stood too long and too close by a heating vent with steel-toed shoes.

Pleasant was able to narrow his biography down to a couple memories during the induction ceremony Saturday in Denver.

Before he could speak of his memories though, the association listed his accomplishments.

The Craig native's resume included more than 30 years as a high school football official, from 1964 to 1999.

He officiated more than 1,000 high school varsity football games, 47 state playoff games and three state championships.

"You see a lot of guys come and go every five or six years," he said. "If you stick with it, you do it for the love of the game and the love of watching kids play it."

Pleasant spent most of his nights refereeing football with others from Craig. Steve Hafey was one of his co-workers in stripes.

"Pete was a fun guy to work with," Hafey said.

Before every season the officials would have a meeting, and almost every year the same guy would stand up and talk about how an official was supposed to look, Hafey said.

"He'd get out the manual and read about how we were supposed to at least look like we were in shape," Hafey said. "Then he'd have Pete stand up and point to his belly and say that this was how we weren't supposed to look."

As the saying goes, appearances can be deceiving, especially in Pleasant's case.

"Pete knew the game and the rules," Hafey said. "He knew how to do his job well."

Hafey and Pleasant also worked college games. It was at a college game that the crew from Craig made national news.

They were regulating a playoff game between Sacramento State and Mesa State in Grand Junction. The time was winding down and Mesa was winning handily. The Maverick's coach decided to try an onside kick, and the ball ended up going out of bounds.

A fight ensued on the Sacremento State sideline.

"I don't know why, but they took their helmets off and started using them to throw punches," Pleasant said. "It was bedlam."

The head official, Doug Deyo, was knocked out during the fight according to Hafey.

"When Doug got up, the fights had been stopped by coaches," Hafey said. "We gathered and decided to call the game."

With only a few minutes remaining the officials called the game.

A few days later the incident was reported on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

"They said it was the first time in the history of college football a game had been stopped by officials," Pleasant said. "We got out of there pretty fast."

When not running from angry mobs, officials spend hours on the road traveling to and from games. Most of those miles are spent together.

"People don't realize how much you drive," he said. "It becomes a hobby if you do it long enough."

Pleasant's crew came upon several bad accidents during their drives.

"We pulled one guy out of his car in a canyon by Oak Creek," he said. "Two or three minutes later the car burned up."

Hafey remembered another time when they came upon a car that had driven through a herd of elk.

"The collision had killed two or three elk," Hafey said. "But there were several just injured, and we tried to find a way to put them out of their misery. Pete grabbed a tire jack but it didn't quite do the job. Then a vehicle pulling a horse trailer drove through and rolled over them."

One of the best games that both remembered was the Battle Mountain vs. Roaring Fork state championship in the mid 1980s.

"I talked to the Roaring Fork coach about keeping the officials local for the game," Pleasant said. "He called the Battle Mountain coach and they agreed. Then I received a call (from the head of officials) and he reminded me we weren't supposed to solicit games."

Soliciting or not, the crew from Craig officiated the game, which was one of the best that Pleasant said he ever saw at the high school level.

In time, the crew that Pleasant was a part of built a good reputation.

Hafey said that he was told once that if they had lived closer to an airport they would have been asked to officiate NCAA Div. I football games.

"You have to be close so they can fly you all over," he said. "Being in Craig though we weren't close enough."

During the ceremony last weekend, Pleasant celebrated with 11 other officials, men whom he holds in the highest esteem.

"Those guys were all clean cut, good guys," he said. "Officials that stay with it are from all different walks of life, but no matter what, they are some of the better people you'll meet."

An induction into the Hall of Fame among all of those distinguished gentlemen must mean that Pleasant was one himself.

"I was out there to protect the kids," he said. "That was my sole purpose and I just happened to like it and stay with it for a long time."

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