BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (WOOD) — In 18 years, Michael Bess has seen it all officiating football games in Battle Creek.
“I’ve always liked being around football, and this is my way of staying involved in high school athletics,” the official explained.
But there was one thing he couldn’t have prepared for: his 67-year-old mother joining him on the field.
Linda Bess was watching TV one day when she noticed a female referee working an NFL game.
“I would have loved to have done that when I was her age, but you know, the only chance I had to be near a football field at their age was as a cheerleader,” Linda Bess said. “I was like, ‘Michael, I really want to do that.'”
Before she knew it, she was on the field.
With only a few weeks on the job, a few mistakes were bound to happen.
“It’s a lot harder than I expected, but it’s just as fun as I expected,” Linda Bess said.
“She’s doing good. She’s just like any other new official, so she’s still learning,” her son added.
At age 67, the one thing Linda Bess doesn’t need to learn is how to chase after the plays.
“She hustles, she’s energetic, and that’s really what it takes,” Michael Bess said.
“Maybe being a little bit faster would be helpful when these kids take off for the end zone, but other than that, I don’t think about how old I am. My body tells me,” Linda Bess laughed.
At her age, she’s unsure if her body will agree to another season as a referee — but if this is her only year throwing flags and spotting the ball, Linda Bess hopes it was spent letting everyone know it’s never too late to try something new.
“They need officials really badly,” Linda Bess said. “And if they see this old lady doing it, they should think, ‘I can do it for sure!’”