Terry and Gary Duffy, The Brother Officials
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From Little League Baseball and Pee Wee Football to the professional level, game officials are rarely glorified. And when a fan or coach does talk about a ref, it’s typically not in a positive way.
Two high school sports officials from the Brookings area are two of the longest serving in the state – and despite some of the verbal abuse they endure, both love what they do.
Meet the Duffy Brothers… Gary is a farmer in Volga, and Terry is a banker in Brookings. During the day they live everyday lives with everyday jobs, but on Friday nights they put on the zebra colored uniforms to ref high school football.
While they’re rarely praised for the job they do, both still enjoy doing it. Surprisingly, one aspect of the job they most enjoy is conversing with the players and coaches.
Terry Duffy acknowledged the fact that fans can become verbally abusive during games. Because of that, he’s trained himself to tune out the outside noise and concentrate on other priorities during games.
“You put up with the fans,” explained Terry Duff. “But the most rewarding aspect is working with the kids, conversing with the kids during the game, and hopefully having a good time.”
Along with being brothers, Terry and Gary are two of the most seasoned officials in South Dakota. Terry has been working games since 1981, while Gary, the older brother, has been doing it since 1977. To add one more twist, for football, they also officiate on the same crew for games.
“We know each one of us is going to do. I know what he’s going to do and I he knows what I’m going to do,” said Gary Duffy. “We’ll challenge each other, I’ll ask [Terry] ‘why did you call that? What did you see?’ If we have a question on the way home, we’ll be sitting there discussing that.”
In some ways brothers will be brothers, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
“We keep it professional on the field, but the ride home might be a little different story (chuckles),” said Terry Duffy.
Over the years, the game of football has seen its fair share of rule changes. A majority of those are designed to make the game safer for its players. Gary Duffy mentioned how he’s seen the safety issue in football evolve over the years.
“When we had the AIDS epidemic early on, they put the blood rule in. If someone had blood on their uniform or on them, they had to go out and get it taken care of,” explained Gary Duffy. “And then the concussion thing came up and everybody… you know, a game is a game, but life is life and you want that kid to be able to continue on with his life and now have repercussions because of what he did in high school.”
Along with football, the duo also officiates other sports like basketball and volleyball. Both don’t know exactly how much longer they’ll continue to officiate high school sports, but right now they’re spending each game savoring the moments they enjoy.
Next week SDPB will premiere Season 3 of the digital series ‘Tales of the Gridiron’ on our SDPB Sports Facebook page. Our first episode will feature Terry and Gary Duffy.