SIOUX CITY | Friday may be the last time the high school football officiating crew of Von Bornholtz, Rich Larson, Jack Schroeder, Dave Schonrock and Royce Ranniger suit up in their stripes and work a game.
OK, cue the sarcastic response. I tossed you the veritable softball.
"Well! It's about time!" (Rim-shot.)
As thousands of football fans read this and try to place faces with flags, I take this chance to thank all five for a job well done. Were it not for the referees, it would be impossible to hold these athletic contests, kids' games that become and remain goals and high-points for thousands of youngsters, their parents and fans from Wayne to Wallingford.
These five men rode in style last Friday night, Oct. 20, cruising north to Rock Valley, Iowa, for a regular-season finale in a stretch limousine, befitting men bowing out on their terms after a combined 186 years in one demanding autumn trade.
Their names, off-field jobs, positions on the field, and years of football officiating service follow:
Bornholtz, 67, a teacher at the Boys & Girls Home, is the crew's head linesman, with 43 years of officiating service.
Larson, 71, a comptroller at Sioux City Foundry, is the referee with the white cap (captain of the crew), and has 43 years in officiating.
Schonrock, 64, works for Anderson Brothers Printing, serves as line judge and has worked for 43 years as an official.
Schroeder, 69, a retired teacher who still toils as a substitute teacher and house painter, works as the umpire in the middle of the action, as he's done for 40 years.
Ranniger, 60, an administrator with the Sioux City Catholic Diocese, is the newcomer to the group, having worked for "just" 17 years, serving as back judge.
That's 186 combined years of service to high school football, a newsworthy run that could possibly end this evening after the final gun sounds at Hawarden, where top-ranked West Sioux hosts Sioux Central in a Class A first-round playoff game.
"I will miss it," said Larson, who has also officiated small-college football and basketball and high school basketball for decades. "But I realize it's time when I find myself thinking I'd rather stay home than go out in the elements."
Keep in mind that I spoke with Larson on Monday, in advance of forecasts calling for snow flurries Friday.
"It will be sad that we're all giving it up," said Bornholtz, who has bravely battled a form of cancer the past several years and undergoes treatments every month, either in Sioux City or at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. "We have no regrets, though. We've had a great run and we've maybe reached that point where we're not as effective as we used to be."
Bornholtz seized the moment and jumped on his own line. "Of course, some would say we weren't very effective 43 years ago!"
Larson prepped at Brandon Valley High School in South Dakota, while Bornholtz and Schonrock are Leeds Lancers from Leeds High School in Sioux City. Ranniger said he played football, "but not very well" at Manning High School in Manning, Iowa. Schroeder, meantime, is the regional outlier, if you will, having moved to Lawton, Iowa, from Hampton, Iowa, one decade ago. Schroeder, a former prep at Crestwood High School in Cresco, Iowa, was a four-year member of the football team at Upper Iowa University.
"I remember one night a few years ago officiating a football game as Dowling played Valley in West Des Moines and there were 8,000 people at the game," Schroeder said. "The next night, we did a game between two small schools and there were 300 people in the stands."
Schroeder observed that contest on the second night meant just as much to those players, coaches, students and communities involved.
"What's neat is how much these guys, all of us, really, still like to dive into the rule book," said Ranniger, who worked a basketball scrimmage at Wayne State College on Wednesday evening. "These guys have been doing football for more than 40 years and they still get out the rule book to talk about something that maybe they've never seen before."
Though their knees, hips and backs may show the wear and tear of four decades of moving among teenagers on the gridiron, their minds remain keen as ever. All five are devoted to rules meetings and robust discussions of various scenarios and interpretations.
"I still go to clinics; you're never too old to learn," Schroeder said.
"We do our best to get it right," Bornholtz concluded. "That's why we're there. It's about getting it right for the kids on the field or the court. Secondarily, it's about getting it right for the coaches and the communities involved."
Schonrock will stay busy in the future evaluating officials for the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union. Ranniger will stay with his crew on the basketball court, while giving himself more time to get to University of Iowa football games on Saturdays in the fall.
All of them, they agree, will hang up the whistles and football cleats, opting now to spend a little more time at home, with their wives and family members.
"You think about all those games, that's 1,300-some nights in basketball and more than 400 nights in football," Schroeder said. "That's something like four to five years of being gone. You've got to have a very supportive wife and family."
And that's a point upon which all of them need "no further review," as they laud their support network, their biggest fans, notably, their wives: Shelley Larson, Vicki Bornholtz, Kris Schonrock, Denise Schroeder and Kathy Ranniger. As thousands of football fans bid these men farewell this evening, five women are, in a sense, making fall Friday night plans for the first time in a lonnnnng time.
WASHINGTON — In ringing and personal terms, President Donald Trump on Thursday pledged that "we will overcome addiction in America," declaring opioid abuse a national public health emergency and announcing new steps to combat what he described as the worst drug crisis in U.S. history.
Trump's declaration, which will be effective for 90 days and can be renewed, will allow the government to redirect resources in various ways and to expand access to medical services in rural areas. But it won't bring new dollars to fight a scourge that kills nearly 100 people a day.
"As Americans we cannot allow this to continue," Trump said in a speech at the White House, where he bemoaned an epidemic he said had spared no segment of society, affecting rural areas and cities, rich and poor and both the elderly and newborns.
"It is time to liberate our communities from this scourge of drug addiction," he said. "We can be the generation that ends the opioid epidemic."
Deaths have surged from opioids, which include some prescribed painkillers, heroin and synthetic drugs such as fentanyl, often sold on the nation's streets.
Administration officials said they also would urge Congress, during end-of-the year budget negotiations, to add new cash to a public health emergency fund that Congress hasn't replenished for years and contains just $57,000.
But critics said Thursday's words weren't enough.
"How can you say it's an emergency if we're not going to put a new nickel in it?" said Dr. Joseph Parks, medical director of the nonprofit National Council for Behavioral Health, which advocates for addiction treatment providers. "As far as moving the money around," he added, "that's like robbing Peter to pay Paul."
Democratic House leader Nancy Pelosi said, "Show me the money."
Trump's audience Thursday included parents who have lost children to drug overdoses, people who have struggled with addiction, first responders and lawmakers.
Trump also spoke personally about his own family's experience with addiction: His older brother, Fred Jr., died after struggling with alcoholism. It's the reason the president does not drink.
Trump described his brother as a "great guy, best looking guy," with a personality "much better than mine."
"But he had a problem, he had a problem with alcohol," the president said. "I learned because of Fred."
Trump said he hoped a massive advertising campaign, which sounded reminiscent of the 1980s "Just Say No" campaign, might have a similar impact.
"If we can teach young people, and people generally, not to start, it's really, really easy not to take 'em," he said.
It's a path taken by previous presidents, including Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, all of whom tried to rally the nation to confront drug abuse but fell short of solving the problem. Some people have become hooked on opioids after being prescribed prescription pain killers by doctors after injuries or surgery.
As a presidential candidate, Trump had pledged to make fighting addiction a priority. Once in office, Trump assembled a commission, led by Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, to study the problem. The commission's interim report argued an emergency declaration would free additional money and resources, but some in Trump's administration disagreed.
"What the president did today was historic and it is an extraordinary beginning set of steps to dealing with this problem," Christie told reporters at the White House after the speech.
Some also faulted the White House for not issuing a wider emergency declaration to deal with the crisis.
Rob Brandt, an Ohio man who lost his 20-year-old son to a heroin overdose in 2011, called Trump's public health emergency order a "good incremental step" but urged greater focus on prevention and long-term treatment.
"The federal government has lagged behind in truly decisive action," said Brandt, who opened an opioid recovery center in Medina, Ohio this year, run on private donations and grants.
"We lost 64,000 Americans last year," he said, "and if you look at, if we were to have a foreign country attack us and kill 60,000 Americans or a terrorist attack that killed 60,000 Americans, we would print money to combat that."
As a result of Trump's declaration, officials will be able to expand access to telemedicine services, including substance abuse treatment for people living in rural and remote areas. Officials will also be able to more easily deploy state and federal workers, secure Department of Labor grants for the unemployed, and shift funding for HIV and AIDs programs to provide more substance abuse treatment for people already eligible for those programs.
Trump said his administration would also be working to reduce regulatory barriers, such as one that bars Medicaid from paying for addiction treatment in residential rehab facilities larger than 16 beds. He spoke of ongoing efforts to require opioid prescribers to undergo special training, the Justice Department's targeting of opioid dealers and efforts to develop a non-addictive painkiller.
DES MOINES | Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller told a conference aimed at combating opioid addiction Thursday that the culture of American medicine needs to change so powerful prescription drugs are viewed as “the very last resort” rather than as a common option for pain.
Miller took aim at large pharmaceutical companies that profited from the rise in painkiller use as having caused a shift in public perception. He later told reporters he is working with other state attorneys general to bring legal action similar to past successful challenges to the tobacco industry.
“What has happened is awful,” said Miller in pointing to a national epidemic in opioid-related deaths and addictions. “Twenty years ago, opioids were used in a very limited way. They were used as a pain remedy of very last resort. They were used with a great deal of caution and respect because of the addictive nature of opioids.”
However, he said, the perception gradually changed in part due to pain associations funded by drug companies that focused on treating injuries with high-strength medications. He applauded new efforts by pharmacies that are limiting opioid prescriptions to only seven-day supplies for acute pain.
“We really have to address this problem and address it dramatically because so much is at stake,” Miller told a conference held as part of Gov. Kim Reynolds’ Opioid Awareness Week. It featured discussions about strategies to reduce opioid misuse and evolving responses to a national epidemic, and a gripping testimonial by a Dubuque man battling his way back from a heroin addiction.
According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, there were 2,274 admissions for opioid treatment in the state in 2016 and 180 opioid-related deaths that year.
Reynolds said Iowa has taken a multifaceted approach to combating the opioid epidemic through prevention, treatment and recovery efforts that include using the state’s prescription drug monitoring program, expanding drug “take back” initiatives in all 99 counties, expanding naloxone access and specialized treatment through local health care providers, and improving specialized professional training and education for health care professionals through licensing boards and medical schools.
“We know that we need to do more,” said Reynolds, who laid out a four-point proposal she hoped would “produce transformational results” once implemented.
Reynolds said she would like to increase prescriber use of Iowa’s prescription monitoring program, which after nine years of operation has only about a 43 percent signup rate. She said efforts are underway to modernize the system. One the technology advances are in place, she expects to see greater participation. But she said she is not ready to make use of the database mandatory for prescribers, as some states do.
“Our hope is that once the program is upgraded and innovations are made that we will see more doctors using it. There’s a growing sense of urgency in the medical community to grab onto this tool and to use it,” said Steve Lukan, director of the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy.
Reynolds advocated “Good Samaritan” legislation that would shield drug users from prosecution if they seek help for someone who is overdosing, similar to laws enacted in some form by many other states.
She also promoted efforts to reduce opioid prescribing to prevent misuse in Iowa, improve intervention for Iowans misusing or addicted to opioids and enhance treatment — particularly medication-assisted treatment for opioid-addicted Iowans.
The Iowa conference was held the same day President Donald Trump called the opioid epidemic the “worst drug crisis in American history” and said his administration is declaring it a public health emergency.
The declaration means the federal government will waive some regulations, give states more flexibility in using federal funds and expand telemedicine treatment.
Both Reynolds, a Republican, and Miller, a Democrat, applauded Trump’s announcement.
“Whatever he declared is helpful,” Miller said, “but it’s going to take an awful lot of other things to make this work.”