The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

Sports

May 7, 2013

Ref's death a consequence of lack of sportsmanship

— The football teams were still on the field, exchanging the traditional postgame handshakes, when Pete McCabe walked by. The veteran referee heard another official call his name and turned, only to be smashed in the face with a helmet by one of the players.

Almost every bone in McCabe's face was broken, his skull fractured in several places and his nose nowhere close to where it belonged. As he lay on the ground in Rochester, N.Y., the semipro player who assaulted him stood over him yelling, "Take that. Take that. This is what I'm all about."

"I have said since this happened to me that it's going to happen again," McCabe said, "and someone is going to get killed."

Four years later, someone was.

McCabe was sickened when he heard the news that Ricardo Portillo had died Saturday, a week after the youth soccer referee in Utah had been punched in the head by a 17-year-old player angry over a yellow card. Just as Portillo's family is now pleading for athletes to control their tempers, McCabe has spent the last four years preaching the importance of sportsmanship in and around Rochester.

To limited success.

"There's no respect for officials now," McCabe said Monday. "Go look at any game, and they're yelling at the official. Pick a high school event, and go watch a couple of games. I guarantee you, you'll see a coach get out of control on the sideline. Or a parent. Or a kid. It's so rampant.

"What happened in Utah, I knew it was going to happen. It was just a matter of time," he added. "Whether it was New York state, Massachusetts, Florida, it was going to happen somewhere in this country."

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