He has never met Gordon Riese. He has not seen the video. What he knows of Replaygate comes from wire stories published in the local paper. But J.C. Louderback reads about the replay official's struggle to come to grips with mistakes that altered two teams' destinies, and he understands.
"Nobody feels worse than (Riese) does," Louderback says. Almost 16 years ago, Louderback was the referee who gave Colorado the Fifth Down. As time expired, a touchdown on that extra down stripped Missouri of an upset and sent the Buffs to a share of the national championship. Now 72 and retired in Arkansas City, Kan., Louderback remembers the dread that slowly overtook him afterward, during a seven-hour drive home. The talking heads on the radio confirmed what he had begun to suspect. When Louderback got home and popped in the videotape, he felt sick. And all these years later, here's the thing: "The feeling never has gone away," he says. Perhaps you've read of Riese's growing suspicion last Saturday night, during the two-hour drive up Interstate 5 from Eugene, Ore., to his home in Portland, that he had committed a catastrophic error. You've heard of his sleepless nights, of his skyrocketing blood pressure. You know about the harassing calls, including death threats, which prompted him to call the police and unplug the phone. Maybe you're sympathetic. If you're a Sooner fan, probably not. Nationally, a guy who was once the dean of Pac-10 referees has become a punch line. Here in Oklahoma, he's something much more sinister. Louderback — once considered one of the very best Big Eight refs — understands. Have you heard the one about the high school calculus teacher who couldn't count to five? Louderback has. Countless times. And from Mizzou fans, he's heard much worse. The Internet hadn't yet arrived, thank goodness. But Louderback got phone calls and letters. His wife, Donna, screened both, hanging up on irate callers, tossing dozens of "nasty" notes into a sack. Louderback read one. "Nobody feels worse than I do," he told Donna. "So why read that over and over again?" But Louderback still has the sack full of venom.
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