I had never met Roger Moore until last year’s Elkhart County 4-H Fair. He was sitting in the hospitality room, eating dinner with the other older gentlemen who were about to referee the 3-on-3 basketball games at the fair that night. Desperate for any sort of story to write, I sat down at the table and started talking to them.
Roger acted like we had been friends for years.
I’ll never forget that.
Roger Moore passed away Thursday afternoon. He was 74 years old.
The news hit me harder than I expected it to. My interactions with Moore were somewhat brief that day. He and the other three referees allowed me to each talk to them for the story, profiling their careers and the friendship the four gentlemen had. The response I got to the story was fantastic. All four gentlemen made sure to reach out to me after the story ran and say how much they appreciated it.
For me, what stood out about Moore was his love for the game of basketball. He had been an official for 55 years. Just think about that for a second. He’s probably forgotten more basketball games he’s officiated than you can remember watching. He even had a nickname for himself — ‘The Machine’ — because of how many games he worked.
It only took a torn Achilles at age 73 for Moore to finally hang up the whistle at a high level.
“Rather than lay in the hospital and have a major surgery, I just said, ‘That’s it,’” said Moore back in July for my story. “I’ve done basketball for 54 (years). I said, ‘That’s it. Wrap it up.’ Just rolling with the punches. I’m getting older every day.”
Another thing that resonated with me about Moore was the love he had for the three other referees that day — Tommy Calhoun, Danny Hurt and Craig Graber. The four had been officiating for more than 100 years combined, creating a bond that few people can have with each other.
“That’s what it’s all about — the camaraderie, the friendship,” said Moore in that same July story. “All the coaches know you. All the friends in the crowd, you’ve seen for years. They may not like a call here or there, but overall, they know I’m a good official. We’re honest and they all respect that.”
I just enjoyed being around all four gentlemen that day so much, especially Moore. It seemed like he had a story or a quip for everything. The details of a story about Bob Knight escape me right now, but just hearing the stories he had were wild. I wish I could’ve recorded everything he said that day and published a book out of it.
I know others know Moore a lot more than I did. I’m sure their tributes will be a little more developed than mine is. That hot July afternoon was the only day I ever interacted with him, but he treated me like we had been friends for years, and that will always resonate with me.
Rest easy, “007.”