A Utah teen accused of punching a soccer referee who later died was charged May 7 with homicide by assault, a count issued when an attack unintentionally causes death.
The teenager was playing goalie when 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo called a penalty on him for pushing an opposing player. The teenager began arguing with Portillo and then struck him in the head.
Portillo was taken to a nearby hospital and listed in fair condition. Hours later, he went into a coma and never regained consciousness.
Portillo died May 4.
It sounds like a Quentin Tarantino movie and I wish it were. I wish a director would yell Ďcut,í and Portillo could get up, brush himself off, and continue refereeing the game he loved. Instead, we have two Families whose lives are changed forever.
The teen, who has not been identified because he is a minor, sits awaiting what will be a highly-publicized trial and the Portillo Family will have to find a way to make it in life without Ricardo.
Refereeing isnít an easy job and it is definitely a thankless job. Rarely are referees liked and usually the best refs are the ones who fans donít know are in the game. I say this not to make fans understand the job of a referee, but rather to bring clarity to the thin line that those who don the striped shirts and blow the whistles must walk. The job is a hard one, but by no means (please read carefully) should it be a dangerous one.
As a sports fan, I know it can be hard to recognize the difficulty and pressure that comes with the job. As a matter a fact, it takes a special athlete (you read that right) to be a ref.† Not only must they know the game, but theyíre asked to keep up with the speed of the game and to make accurate, split-second decisions that sometimes will determine the fate of the game.
Iíve been mad, screamed at the television and even questioned a refís eyewear prescription strength, but at the end of the day, all referees are human. Putting on pants doesnít happen any differently for them.
Iím not saying that fans or athletes have to like referees, but there should be a certain level of respect. That respect starts at the top.
Parents, coaches and athletes have a responsibility to remember that referees are humans first. After a game, refs want and deserve to go home just like us.