Monday, December 16, 2013

A Final Tribute


As we have shared, Our friend, Ernie Branco, has left us. I'll be honest to say that for the last week I have been remembering the times that he and I have interacted, and the things I learned in the process. Even just last night Madam X and I spoke about this in depth as she too knew Ernie well for nearly a decade.

First time I can recall actually meeting Ernie was in Easton at a youth tournament. I was about 15 at the time I think, and was a very young, and very cocky, grade 8 referee who had all of one other tournament under his belt.

I was there with my dad who had met Ernie before and we were introduced. As the story goes, my dad was pretty unimpressed with me at the time as I was wearing an earring as many at that age did. He was really on me about it saying that the top referees don't wear one, and if I wanted to get there I should not.

Enter Ernie ... literally.

At Oliver Ames High School, where the tournament was held, Ernie was most certainly the most experienced referee there, and was well on his way to becoming one of the very best in the state. When we met, he knew about my dad not liking the earring. His approach was simple though ... he looked me up and down and said something to the effect of, "I like your earring, but the players may not. You may want to take it out, just for the match."

I did, and never wore it again ... inside the field.

It was a beginning to a very long relationship that saw us move from mentor, referees working together, to co-workers, back to a mentor relationship.

State Cup was always a hoot with him. I remember fondly what has come to be known as "The Cornstarch Affair."

I remember him singing happy birthday to Tom Supple and I, along with the Massachusetts FIFA and National Referee core, after a training session in Norton or him calling me "My Boy" at the top of his lungs when he would see me at a clinic.

We spent hours together in his office at BHS talking about MLS matches, and life.

So many times at matches at Foxboro Stadium we saw each other and I relished every interaction. Those were some of the most stressful times in my life, and to get a word of encouragement, or see him at the 4th Official table on the touch line always put me at ease. He was always the last person I spoke to before I went into the field.

Today is the day we say our last goodbye.

Tomorrow and all our tomorrows are when we remember the man and remember his caring and energetic way that lead to a zeal life should always have.

I for one, will miss him terribly.

As detailed earlier a scholarship fund has already been set up in his honor, and can be accessed on line at the EB Scholarship Fund.

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