GOSHEN — The 3-on-3 basketball tournament at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair has become a mainstay of the fair. It’s also been a mainstay for the men who referee the event.
As the 10-12-year-old age groups took the court Monday night, the referees officiating the action were all nearly 50 years older than them. Danny Hurt, 61, Tommy Calhoun, 64, Craig Garber, 70, and Roger Moore, 74, have been officiating basketball games for more than 100 years combined.
“The friendship is pretty, pretty cool. When you work with the same guys, you get to know each other,” Calhoun said. “It’s easier to control the game when you know who you’re working with.”
All four refs have spent multiple summers at the Elkhart County 4-H Fair. Even as they get older, the chance to help the young kids playing in the tournament keeps them coming back.
“Just to come out and come to the fair, watch these kids. Every year they grow and keep on improving,” Calhoun said. “It’s a good thing to do.”
With old age comes aches and pains, though. Fortunately for Calhoun, they’re not as bad as they used to be.
“I’ve got two new knees and a new hip, so I’m feeling pretty good right now,” Calhoun said.
Moore spent more than five decades refereeing basketball games across the state. He tore his Achilles last year, however, so he decided to hang up the whistle from working high school games.
“I was known as ‘The Machine’ because I worked more than anybody … rather than lay in the hospital and have a major surgery, I just said, ‘That’s it,’” Moore said. “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.”
Moore couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with his old friends, though.
“That’s what it’s all about — the camaraderie, the friendship,” Moore said. “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.”
Garber said he keeps on coming out because of the energy with which the kids play the games with.
“Just the excitement, the enthusiasm; the kids want to play well,” Garber said. “They get to play against other schools. They like to see how they can compete against the local schools.”
The four refs don’t just work the fair together, as Garber explained.
“We work together during the season, too. We’re really good friends. That’s really helped,” Garber said. “We know each other well, we know our families, we tease each other a lot.”
Hurt may be the most traveled of the four. He spent 10 years as a referee with the Harlem Globetrotters and served as a ref for the 1999 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Being able to be back home and work the 3-on-3 tournament at the fair is still special for the Elkhart native.
“It’s truly a blessing to be able to be here and to do this and be a part of the community,” Hurt said. “Not only for the love of the game, but for the love of the kids. I love to come out and be a part of the basketball world.”
Like his fellow referees, Hunt has made a lifelong bond with them.
“These referees are part of my referee family. I have about 40 people in my referee family, so it’s a big family,” Hunt said. “We are not only friends on the court, but off the court as well.”
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN
3-ON-3 RESULTS — MONDAY
BOYS AGE 10-12 (17 teams)
First round: Team Garcia def. Team Schrock 13-10
Second round: Team Janes def. Team Defrees 13-0; Team Frye def. Team Merrifield 13-9; Team Sullivan def. Team Bussard 13-4; Team M. Shindler def. Team Cowan 13-7; Team Cline def. Team Custer 13-6; Team Walker def. Team Garcia 12-8; Team Furlow def. Team D. Miller 11-9; Team Mast def. Team T. Miller 13-12
Third round: Team Janes def. Team Frye 12-8; Team M. Shindler def. Team Sullivan 13-7; Team Cline def. Team Walker 13-2; Team Mast def. Team Furlow 13-2
Semifinals: Team M. Shindler def. Team Janes 13-9; Team Cline def. Team Mast 13-8
Finals: Team M. Shindler vs. Team Cline, Thursday, 6:50 p.m.
GIRLS AGE 10-12 (4 teams)
Semifinals: Team L. Shindler def. Team Conley 13-9; Team Horn def. Team Higgins 7-6
Finals: Team L. Shindler vs. Team Horn, Thursday, 6:50 p.m.