So, who has the more dangerous job—a longshoreman or an NFL umpire who finds himself caught between onrushing blockers and flailing linebackers? "Every job has an occupational hazard," says Hendi Ancich, who, as an 18-year veteran of the Los Angeles docks, is the only blue-collar worker among the league's 107 officials. "Try to get an insurance policy working on the docks. I've had steel roll on me, a container fall on a vehicle I was driving and all sorts of cuts, bruises and broken fingers."
But until the Nov. 3 Lions-Vikings game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis, Ancich, 48, had never been injured as an umpire. In the third quarter, Detroit linebacker August Curley ran into him. Ancich fell backward, his head slamming against the artificial turf. He suffered a concussion and lay unconscious for a minute and a half. Last Sunday, though, he was back at work in the Dallas-Washington game.
"I'm a laborer," Ancich says. "When I first applied to the NFL, I was intimidated. All the other refs were professional people—lawyers, doctors, teachers. But I passed the NFL's checks—including five hours of psychoanalysis. I've proved I'm good enough to be here, no matter what I do for a living. I'm a boon to the blue-collar guys."