Sixty years...and counting

May 24, 2024 at 9:20 a.m.
(photo provided)


When Larry Sintz pops a whistle in his mouth at your local volleyball match this August, you’ll be watching a dedicated professional entering his seventh decade as a licensed sports official.

“The Man, the Myth, the Legend” - sporting a t-shirt with those exact words - was feted (and duly roasted) by friends, family members, past and present colleagues, coaches and area athletic directors at Brookville’s Schilling Center Sunday. 

“To be honest, there are more people here than I expected,” said the veteran referee, who began his adventures in stripes upon graduating from Brookville High School in 1964. 

“I’m overwhelmed and I usually don’t get that way,” he added, proceeding to introduce everyone in attendance. 

A handful of special guests shared fond - and often humorous - anecdotes of times spent with Sintz on and off the playing surfaces. Many were good-natured jabs at his advancing age. 

Mike Alford, who’s been paired with Sintz perhaps more than any current official, quipped “I don’t think anyone is as old as Larry” as he kept the stories moving.  

“I’m glad you’re retiring,” said another official, Dan Carmichael. When informed by Larry’s girlfriend Deb Ervin that he was not retiring, Carmichael was having none of it: “Yes, he is!” Alford added people have been saying ‘Sintz is retired’ for the past 30 years. 

Carmichael mused that fans assume he’s in his 70s when he works basketball games with Sintz and Alford. He then concluded, “All these years have been fantastic.” 

At a game in Union County, Alford asked late UC legend Wilbur Curry - then in his 90s - whether Sintz had officiated any of Curry’s games. When the venerable man said he didn’t think so, Alford replied, “Larry, there’s actually someone in this gym you haven’t refereed for!” 

Sintz often plays along, informing ticket takers that his “grandson” (official Brian Lamb) will be officiating that night’s game with him. At a Frisch’s in Madison one winter night, Alford and Charley Farthing of Rushville - another longtime crew member - told the waitresses they’d taken Sintz out of his rest home for the night and had to have him back by 11. 

None of this detracts from the man’s achievements from so many years of devotion. A table showed several certificates from the Excellence in Officiating group. He’s officiated over 260 postseason tournaments in football, girls and boys basketball and volleyball, including 22 at the semistate level and eight state championships. In 2014 he entered the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame by receiving the Women’s Center Circle Officials Award. 

Even through complicated health issues, he’s forged on while admittedly cutting back some at Deb’s urging. 

“A lot of things have changed since I first started, not all of them are good,” said Sintz. “How much longer am I gonna do this? I don’t know.” 

Sintz introduced his daughter Erin (Aaron) Lambert and son Eric (Kathy) Sintz, as well as their children Baylee and Logan Lambert and Paxton and Parker Sintz. He said Erin was the only one who cheered for him at ballgames and Eric tried to follow in his officiating footsteps for 2-3 years. He emphasized all four grandkids were two-sport athletes. 

There were tales of fans recognizing him in public, sometimes remembering calls going against their children or grandchildren. Sintz sang a round of “Rocky Top,” what he calls his national anthem. UC athletic director Ryan Overholt told of brain freezes Larry got from eating ice cream at Patriots’ games. At Central Christian Academy, Sintz had upset a little girl’s nacho tray on the sideline; when asked by his fellow officials about it at halftime, he replied “I don’t like nachos.” 

Paul Gonzales, an official ribbed for his diminutive stature, said despite the jokes at his expense, “I enjoyed every minute of every game with you and look forward to working many more.” 

Another former colleague, Jack Taylor, said there wasn’t “anything I enjoyed more in my life than working with Larry.” 

Jerry Nicholson may have summed it up best, having first met Sintz in Gatlinburg. 

“I’ve got three close friends and that dude right there’s #1, he’s an A1 person.”

When Larry Sintz pops a whistle in his mouth at your local volleyball match this August, you’ll be watching a dedicated professional entering his seventh decade as a licensed sports official.

“The Man, the Myth, the Legend” - sporting a t-shirt with those exact words - was feted (and duly roasted) by friends, family members, past and present colleagues, coaches and area athletic directors at Brookville’s Schilling Center Sunday. 

“To be honest, there are more people here than I expected,” said the veteran referee, who began his adventures in stripes upon graduating from Brookville High School in 1964. 

“I’m overwhelmed and I usually don’t get that way,” he added, proceeding to introduce everyone in attendance. 

A handful of special guests shared fond - and often humorous - anecdotes of times spent with Sintz on and off the playing surfaces. Many were good-natured jabs at his advancing age. 

Mike Alford, who’s been paired with Sintz perhaps more than any current official, quipped “I don’t think anyone is as old as Larry” as he kept the stories moving.  

“I’m glad you’re retiring,” said another official, Dan Carmichael. When informed by Larry’s girlfriend Deb Ervin that he was not retiring, Carmichael was having none of it: “Yes, he is!” Alford added people have been saying ‘Sintz is retired’ for the past 30 years. 

Carmichael mused that fans assume he’s in his 70s when he works basketball games with Sintz and Alford. He then concluded, “All these years have been fantastic.” 

At a game in Union County, Alford asked late UC legend Wilbur Curry - then in his 90s - whether Sintz had officiated any of Curry’s games. When the venerable man said he didn’t think so, Alford replied, “Larry, there’s actually someone in this gym you haven’t refereed for!” 

Sintz often plays along, informing ticket takers that his “grandson” (official Brian Lamb) will be officiating that night’s game with him. At a Frisch’s in Madison one winter night, Alford and Charley Farthing of Rushville - another longtime crew member - told the waitresses they’d taken Sintz out of his rest home for the night and had to have him back by 11. 

None of this detracts from the man’s achievements from so many years of devotion. A table showed several certificates from the Excellence in Officiating group. He’s officiated over 260 postseason tournaments in football, girls and boys basketball and volleyball, including 22 at the semistate level and eight state championships. In 2014 he entered the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame by receiving the Women’s Center Circle Officials Award. 

Even through complicated health issues, he’s forged on while admittedly cutting back some at Deb’s urging. 

“A lot of things have changed since I first started, not all of them are good,” said Sintz. “How much longer am I gonna do this? I don’t know.” 

Sintz introduced his daughter Erin (Aaron) Lambert and son Eric (Kathy) Sintz, as well as their children Baylee and Logan Lambert and Paxton and Parker Sintz. He said Erin was the only one who cheered for him at ballgames and Eric tried to follow in his officiating footsteps for 2-3 years. He emphasized all four grandkids were two-sport athletes. 

There were tales of fans recognizing him in public, sometimes remembering calls going against their children or grandchildren. Sintz sang a round of “Rocky Top,” what he calls his national anthem. UC athletic director Ryan Overholt told of brain freezes Larry got from eating ice cream at Patriots’ games. At Central Christian Academy, Sintz had upset a little girl’s nacho tray on the sideline; when asked by his fellow officials about it at halftime, he replied “I don’t like nachos.” 

Paul Gonzales, an official ribbed for his diminutive stature, said despite the jokes at his expense, “I enjoyed every minute of every game with you and look forward to working many more.” 

Another former colleague, Jack Taylor, said there wasn’t “anything I enjoyed more in my life than working with Larry.” 

Jerry Nicholson may have summed it up best, having first met Sintz in Gatlinburg. 

“I’ve got three close friends and that dude right there’s #1, he’s an A1 person.”

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