Saturday night, I went to a football game with a friend. Ron had an extra ticket and wanted the company so we drove down to Provo and watched BYU beat Georgia Tech.
It started out well enough. But about the time we reached Provo City limits, I had flashed back to one of the things I hated most about being a cop: directing traffic at a sporting event.
It was years ago and I hadn’t been a cop very long when I signed up to work extra shifts helping the BYU Police Department manage football season traffic. I wasn’t a sports fan. I did it for an entirely selfish reason: I wanted the extra money for my family for Christmas.
When I finally quit, it was also for an entirely selfish reason: I wanted to be around for Christmas. My career in sports traffic lasted four games.
When directing traffic at a sporting event, the only thing more difficult than helping giddy people get safely to the stadium is helping a really annoyed mob of people safely out of it.
With other major events — circus, parade, LDS General Conference, concert, etc. — the tone of the mob is usually the same going in as it is coming out. They may be a little tired or depressed but they aren’t necessarily looking to get even.
At sporting events, depending on who played, about half the people leaving are extremely unhappy over the outcome. For them, the game is still going.
My job on game days was to stand in the middle of a major intersection on a primary feeder route into Provo and try not to get run over. This was harder than it sounds.
In the day before computerized traffic signals, everything had to be done by hand and by someone willing to risk his or her neck doing it.
The plan was to ignore the traffic light. By virtue of the power vested in me and a whistle, I would hold cross traffic and allow as much game traffic into (or out of) the stadium area as possible.
Exactly how much was possible was dictated largely by my own level of fear. Only when the halted cross traffic had become visibly and audibly homicidal would I signal for them to go.
Things went rather well my first game. Not only was I not run over, I was only pelted with curses and a few nonlethal items. However, some cars passed deliberately close enough that I could feel the door handles on my butt.
The second game — and I have no idea who was playing — got a little rougher. The traffic was angrier, the things people threw were larger and they got even closer.
I dreaded the day BYU played Utah. However, directing University of Utah traffic into Provo wasn’t the worst of the games I worked. That would be the day BYU played Wyoming, my fourth and final game as a traffic referee.
I don’t recall the year. I do remember that it was an extremely lopsided score and Wyoming fans were not happy as they left the stadium.
Traffic was particularly bad at that game. There were several fender benders in the intersection I worked but I couldn’t do the paperwork on them. I had to keep the traffic moving.
A couple of drunk Wyoming fans didn’t like being ignored. They started heckling me from the sidewalk. I ignored them until they began throwing things into traffic. That’s when I used the only bit of sports knowledge I know.
I stopped traffic in all directions and made the "time-out" sign so that everyone could see it. Then I went over and handcuffed the Wyoming fans to a light pole. I received a honking ovation from the stopped traffic for that play.
Final score: 2-0. Overall, it wasn’t a bad game to end my sports traffic career on.
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