FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The holiday season is a time to spend with loved ones, but for Joe and Mike Johnson – family time starts on the basketball court. For this referee duo from Fort Wayne, officiating started out as just a hobby, but over the years it’s turned to a passion and a way for this father and son to bond.
“Never thought I’d actually be a basketball official, just coaching playing and hanging around the gym.” Mike Johnson said.
Mike’s son, Joe added; “Never! (I) never thought it was to be a full time thing. I fell in love with it, I fell in love with being a part of the game.”
It may not have been the plan but sometimes passion and a true calling has a way of finding you.
When we walk on the court, it’s business and professionalism, and really we want the kids to be successful and we try to give the coaches all we can give them.” Mike said.
It might be all business on the hardwood, but like a lot of kids and their dad – they like to joke around with each other when they can.
“He taught me to be on time and not to be late, which he doesn’t follow so I do the opposite of what we does.” Joe said with a smile.
“I’m a little more patient than my son, Joey has a tendency to be in a hurry in life. Just hurry, hurry, hurry. I just wished he’d hurry to work, I’m just teasing. My pregame with my son is always like this: ‘Joey no matter what happens we’re not throwing our arms in the air, we not putting our eyes back up and we’re not telling kids to hurry up.'” Mike said.
The opportunity to call games with one another doesn’t happen too often and it’s something neither have been taking for granted.
“Coming here towards the end, I’m not going to take any of the games I have with him for granted because they’re very few far and in-between now. So when I saw him today – that could have been my last game with him to be honest with you so yeah that kind of just sunk in right there.” Joe said.
If it was the pair’s last game together, a least a lot of familiar faces were filling the stands.
“I look up and my wife is sitting next to my old neighbor Kevin Cismoski, Kevin’s my old neighbor – we’ve played ball since 3rd grade. Behind them is Keith Edmonds and Tracy Foster. I was coaching Tracy in 8th grade. I mean I just started looking around and there was this guy, this guy and that guy and I was like this is awesome.” Mike said.
It’s quite clear the passion they share for the game is priceless.
“You can talk about all the money and all of the success and all of the trophies, there’s nothing better than watching the twinkle in the eye of a player or coach. I mean, I really love this.” Mike said.
It takes heart to be a hoops ref in the Hoosier state and these guys get it.