Usually, we don’t do stories about semi-pro football unless something amazing happens. And by “amazing,” of course, we mean “awful, inhumane, and bloody,” which is precisely what we have here: a referee taking a helmet square in the face.
As - hang on, is this really the name of the station? Really? Fine. - as, ahem, WHAM-TV in Rochester, NY, reports, the incident came at the end of a Western New York Cougars loss, and one of the Cougars took it all much too personally. Personal enough to break every bone in referee Pete McCabe’s face and give him a hairline fracture of the skull. And is that the worst part? Oh no, of course not.
From WHAM 13:
While a football referee lay bleeding on the field, team members of the man responsible refused to hand over their cell phones so someone could call 911. The ref was slugged in the face with a helmet belonging to a member of the losing team.
“He was walking off the field and remembers seeing an object just for a quick moment come by the left side of his head, and the next thing you know he was on the ground,” said McCabe’s brother-in-law Mark Whitford. “He tried to get up but had so much blood coming off of him.”
“He was very fortunate that his nose took the brunt,” Whitford said. “The doctor says he’s lucky that he wasn’t killed.”
Yes, operating under the ever-true “snitches get stitches” doctrine - the same one that delayed the arrest of the killer of Jasper Howard for over a week - nobody who watched their teammate crush a defenseless referee in the face thought it would be prudent to offer their cell phone when someone asked - or to tell anybody who the assailant was.
Good news, though - authorities have figured this one out, seeing as how football players have numbers on their jerseys and all, and someone’s been charged with first-degree assault:
Police have charged Leon Woods, 23, of Rochester, with two counts of first-degree assault. He was arrested late Tuesday night on Empire Boulevard.
They say Woods, a member of the Western New York Cougars team, allegedly struck Pete McCabe in the face with his football helmet after a game on Saturday.
The Cougars, if you were curious, have a Facebook page; it hasn’t been updated since February, though, and their official homepage at WNYCOUGARS.COM doesn’t even exist anymore. So not the most professional of operations here. Still, their reputation preceded them - to the point that McCabe wasn’t even supposed to be there that night; he was only filling in for another referee who refused to work the game out of, ahem, safety concerns.
And that’s probably the worst part about this - when somebody acts out of fear and distrust, it only engenders more of the same. When that first person is proven right, however, it crystallizes the ill will. The Rochester Chapter of Certified Football Officials will be meeting to see whether they want to continue officiating these games. They have to decline, don’t they?
After all, unless they start giving the referees guns or something, we no longer have a verifiably safe environment on our hands. It’s a shame for the Cougars and the rest of the league, but nobody can argue that at any point, the Cougars didn’t deserve it.