Turned on tonight's MLS match between Real Salt Lake and Houston. Although the referee's silhouette looked familiar, ESPN didn't show a close-up of his face for a few minutes. But sure enough, when they did, it was my old buddy Mark Geiger. Mark and I go way back - we've probably refereed a hundred matches together, been to each other's houses, all that. We used to travel to quite a number of tournaments together, and when our crew would go out, the running joke was it was always his birthday and I always got the waitstaff to sing 'Happy Birthday' to him. We even won the same award. I won it two years before he did, owing completely to the fact that I was a couple of years older than he was.
I left refereeing to focus on college - engineering just didn't allow time for anything else, at least for a rock like me. But the game never left me. And so tonight, not only is Mark an MLS referee, he's America's newest FIFA referee. And at 34, the right age to go to South Africa in two years.
I don't regret leaving the game for a minute. Getting to a level to even be considered for the top - and I was right there, had a date for national trials when I quit - was a tremendous grind, and I lost the desire. But I'm very glad he made it, and I get some gratification knowing that I was on a similar path.
Walk down memory lane. I'm sure anyone who read this found it tremendously boring. Sorry. It was just very cool to me.