It will be quite rare to have George Halas featured in any of my articles but I felt that his sense of humour at least deserved a mention in connection with National Football League official Lon Evans. Caricature of an official sent to Lon, compliments of George “Papa Bear” Halas, coach of the Chicago Bears. The piece is signed: “To my good friend Lon Evans, “The last of the James Boys.”
George Halas, legendary organiser, owner and coach of the Chicago Bears for seven decades had brought his team to California to play the Los Angeles Rams. Halas was a great showman and a master of crowd appeal. Lon was officiating and during the game his penalty flag fell out of his pocket. Halas came running and screaming onto the field like a wild man. Lon explained to him what had happened. Halas said, “you mean there is no penalty?” Lon replied, “yes, that is correct.” With that Halas began walking backwards, bowing like a Japanese houseboy. The crowd loved it.
At one Baylor-SMU game in Waco, Lon called a penalty against Baylor that resulted in a game winning SMU field goal. After the game several hundred angry Baylor fans mobbed the officials’ locker room, chanting, “we want Evans!”
There was a rumour that Lon decked the mob’s ringleader with one punch and the crowd dispersed. Actually as stories go, Lon didn’t hit anyone. He just stepped out there and said he wasn’t going to fight 300 mad Baptists. But he told them he would take them on one at a time if they would simply get in line. Nobody took him up on his offer.
During a football game between the University of Arkansas and Tulsa University Lon witnessed a player’s “last hurrah”. The Arkansas team featured a running back named “Cowboy” Kyle. What appeared to be a touchdown pass was thrown to Kyle as he ran towards the end zone. The ball passed right through his hands as he entered the end zone. Kyle never looked back. He just kept going, made a dash for the dressing room, got dressed and left the university. As far as Lon knew “Cowboy” Kyle never went back to the hills of Arkansas.
Once, when Lon was officiating a high school game during the World War II era, a team lined up for a very important extra point. The line held and the kicker brought his foot forward. The ball started up in an arc, which seemed destined to take it over the goal. Then - poof - the ball fluttered to the ground like a wounded duck. Because of shortages it was hard to get good footballs during those days and the ball simply lost its air. The officials conferred and decided there was only one fair thing to do and that was to let the team kick the extra point try again. This time, they made it.