The time was late in the year so that the chilled breeze rushed out of the canyon, past the scoreboard and through the west end zone at Mitchell Stadium on an Anaconda football night.
So, it could have been September, maybe even August, but likely October as the wind collected loose napkins and game program cards and tried to jet them blocks away to somewhere near the regal Washoe Theater.
The Copperheads were gearing to score, set up somewhere around the 20-yard line and play had been halted by a timeout.
Red Menahan turned toward the Anaconda sideline and chopped air with a demonstrative wave.
“Hey!” he called out and began jogging toward the sideline, his white referee’s cap bouncing atop his head as the official’s uniform befit accurate identity. Red was in charge.
“I’m glad you’re here,” he greeted. “There’s something I want to tell you.”
With that, all but one of the other members of the crew joined him in a pack hurrying to the sideline and stood around, greeting and shaking hands with a reporter from Butte.
Red’s subject had absolutely nothing to do with Butte or Anaconda and certainly not with the game. It seems it was related to the newspaper, The Montana Standard, the reporter represented at the time. Likely, it was a good-natured jab.
The crowd was a larger one than has trekked to nostalgic, stoic Mitchell Stadium in recent years. The seats all looked full and maybe they were. Anaconda’s opposition in the game is unrecalled by the reporter these several years later, but Jeff Frank or Allen Green might remember. They were there.
The story told and duly appreciated, probably causing laughter, the reporter and the officiating crew traded jokes and anecdotes for awhile, oblivious to whatever the crowd might be thinking was taking place. The last member of the crew, the one who stayed on the field to monitor the players and coaches during the timeout, reminded about the task of hand, however.
“Red! Red!” Tony Laslovich called out sternly as he, too, then began to trot toward the sidelines, but only to seek the others’ attentions. “Red! Jeff! LET’S GO!!!! We’re ready.”
A look down the sideline showed a seemingly exasperated Green, the Copperheads’ head coach, holding the left earpiece of his headphone in his hand, staring back at the group gathered in and out of bounds at about the 20. He shook his head.
The players stood over the ball. All 22 of them were staring at the reporter and striped shirts collected off to the side. Some of the kids had their hands on their hips. They’d been waiting for awhile.
Obviously, especially the out-of-towners, had seen nothing like this before. But, you know, time just seems to get away every now and then when you’re B.S’n with the guys.
As the officials quietly, but quickly and perhaps sheepishly, took to their assigned posts, Laslovich stood on the line of scrimmage and looked over to the reporter. He checked up and down the field as if to make sure nobody on it was looking at him. Then he smiled and flicked a little “good to see you,” wave to the reporter.
After Laslovich took his position, he looked over at the reporter again. He was forced to remove the whistle from his mouth and he then shook his head. He was laughing.
Football then resumed.
The moment replayed in the reporter’s head just at the end of last month while at the fully packed-and-then-some Laslovich funeral in Anaconda. Maybe standing there next to noted sports officials Mike Richardson and Russ Hansen touched the memory, but it was one that has surfaced pretty often, though grown foggier with age.
Tony passed young at 57 to cancer. Red wasn’t at the funeral. He was in a Billings hospital at the time and then died at age 76 the day after the Laslovich services. Maybe Tony waited for him at the Gates. They could have had a time recalling their adventures as coaches, refs, mentors, solid family men, hard workers and community leaders. It could certainly be imagined that robust laughter would spice the conversations.
Jeff and Allen might be able to fill us all in better on the details of that Anaconda game that one particular night when the refs and media were caught B.S’n.
What we are sure about though, is that Red could tell us the story and Tony would know the score.