Bill Maxwell worked countless games in the NASL and MISL in his heyday.
By Michael Lewis
One of the things I hate the most about the writing business is writing obituaries.
It is a sad occasion, whether you knew the individual or not.
If you knew the person, your feelings could get multiplied by the sorrow you feel.
Which brings me to Bill Maxwell, who passed away at the age of 87 earlier this week (Here is the link to his obituary — https://www.frontrowsoccer.com/2017/11/15/goodbye-bill-bill-maxwell-former-nasl-misl-referee-passes-away/)
While writing for the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle years ago, I got to know Bill as he regaled me with officiating stories.
We got along.
Game officials and sportswriters getting along?
Yep, it has happened in this reality.
I used to joke that writers and referees were so despised by soccer teams and players that we had to sit in the back of the bus.
Through the years, I have gotten to know many referees, some I am proud to say have been my friends. They realized that everything wasn’t on the record when they spoke to me. Heck, sometimes I just wanted to learn more about the sport and heard their interpretation of a rule.
Back in the day, I was a sponge. When I first started covering the beautiful game in the seventies, there were few, if any books or videos about rules and the basic tenants of the game. Soccer on TV? Ha! A pipe dream in those days!
So, you learned the old-fashioned way — watching actual games in person and talking and listening to people.
I took it a step further. In 1979 I decided to audit a referee course in Rochester, N.Y. to broaden my knowledge.
Bill happened to teach the course.
I attended several sessions and it was mind boggling.
He made things that seemed complicated so simple because of his outgoing personality. He had a story for every rule, which made it much easier on his students.
I learned how big a goal was — 8 by 8. That’s eight feet high by 8 yards across.
I remember Bill imploring the class never to touch an injured player on the ground. “This is the land of the lawsuit,” he said.
I certainly didn’t turn into a know-it-all, but I wound up seeing the game from a different perspective.
On the final exam of that referee course, I got within one question of nailing a perfect score.
Can you guess what I got wrong?
Yep, the offside rule.
Bill marked my paper in front of me and when we got to the offside questions, he put an X next to the wrong answer.
I still remember what he said: “Ooooooh, Michael. How could you get this wrong?”
I think I tried to say something witty, like “Many other people and linesmen can’t get it right as well.”
Back in the day, I wrote about Bill and some of his experiences in the NASL and MISL. He was a referee for all soccer seasons, whether it be college, outdoor or indoor. He worked the middle of the 1981 MISL championship game and the 1984 Soccer Bowl, which was the original incarnation of the NASL’s last championship game until its revival this century.
Moreover, I will remember Bill as a man who was personable and loquacious, who had a story for everything and as a good man.
And just to show how small a soccer world this really is, Bill’s son, Ray coaches the Livonia High School boys soccer team in Section V (Rochester area). Ray Maxwell directed Livonia to the New York State Class B soccer title in 2012. In the state semifinals, Livonia defeated Mattituck High School, which I covered during the Tuckers’ state championship year in 2014.
Who would have guessed?
On his Facebook page, Ray announced that there would be a memorial service for Bill at Central Presbyterian Church in Geneseo, N.Y. Friday, Dec. 16 at 11 a.m.
Rest in peace, Bill.