The conversation went something like this... “See that guy right there, the official?” I said to a few young girls basketball players, who nodded in affirmation.
“Well,” I continued, knowing said official was well within earshot (though he probably couldn’t see me... you know how officials and good vision go together about as well as oil and water, right?), “he was a referee way back when, when I was playing high school ball!”
As a shared look of astonishment ran across their faces, I couldn’t resist.
“Yeah, he was terrible then, too,” I said, laughing, of course.
With that, Phil Garcia smiled, gave me a quick nod and sped back down the opposite end of the floor, “sped” being relative, of course.
After all, 41 years of officiating varsity basketball will take a toll on 58-year-old legs.
A busy guy
Phil Garcia, who has no idea this is being written, by the way, is one of the busiest people in the area.
Aside from being one of the most recognizable officials in the area, he is the assigner of officials for seven schools in the Premier Athletic Conference, St. John, Conneaut, Edgewood and Grand River Academy. Additionally, he handles junior-high assignments for others, including Jefferson, a member of the All-American Conference.
Then, there’s his “real job,” owning and operating Phil’s Catering, a venture he kicked off more than a quarter of a century ago.
“Really, I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I weren’t as busy,” he said.
Unfortunately, he has found out the past 2 years.
In 2012, he was sidelined with pancreatitis, which had him hospitalized for 10 days.
Then, last year, he was out of commission as his gall bladder had to be removed and during the procedure to do so, it was discovered he had a hernia. The double whammy had him laid up in the hospital for 7 days.
“I’ve been down more days the previous 2 years than the rest of my life, combined,” he said with his trademark laugh. “Hopefully, it’s all past and taken care of, now.”
As he worked a basketball game Saturday afternoon, Garcia looked fit and trim and appeared to be in excellent shape.
“I am,” he said, a trace of pride heard in his voice. “I’m eating well... taking much better care of myself.”
Not to mention, obviously, still getting plenty of exercise.
“This is the best I’ve felt in years.”