this is a discussion within the Saints Community Forum; CALL HER MS. REF A MARGATE WOMAN FINDS BEING THE FIRST FEMALE FOOTBALL REFEREE IN HER COLLEGE DIVISION ISN'T AS CHALLENGING AS THE LIFE SHE HAS FACED OFF THE FIELD BY NATALIE P. McNEAL email@example.com Three different times, doctors told ...
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CALL HER MS. REF
CALL HER MS. REF
A MARGATE WOMAN FINDS BEING THE FIRST FEMALE FOOTBALL REFEREE IN HER COLLEGE DIVISION ISN'T AS CHALLENGING AS THE LIFE SHE HAS FACED OFF THE FIELD
BY NATALIE P. McNEAL
Three different times, doctors told Annice Canady she had cancer.
It was in three different places on her petite frame -- both breasts and her hip -- and it was three different types of the disease.
She has had a double mastectomy and a tumor the size of a grapefruit removed from her right side.
After surviving all of that, the age-old disses she gets of ''You belong in the kitchen'' or ''I'm not working with a woman,'' seem trite to her.
Canady, who lives in Margate, is the first woman to work as an official in Division 1AA football, officials said.
Canady has been a line judge for two years, advancing as far as any female official in football.
''I've had people call me [profane names] and I'm thinking to myself, I'm battling breast cancer,'' Canady said.
Canady's job is to watch the line of scrimmage, making sure no one jumps offside, among other duties. She works in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, composed of historically black colleges and universities along the eastern seaboard.
Canady, who grew up in Fort Lauderdale, decided to become a referee as a means of therapy after her first bout with breast cancer in 1990. She grew up playing sports and she thought it would be fun. She called up a friend, Tyson Jones, who then supervised youth officials for Broward sports leagues. She worked her way up to the collegiate level.
''I figured it's only rules and regulations,'' Canady said. ``What's the big deal about applying rules?''
When she first started training to be a youth league official, one man declared: ``I'm not working with a woman.''
``You must be leaving because I'm not going anywhere.''
''She's a steady rock,'' said Jones, who helped get Canady into officiating. ``She has overcome a lot of obstacles. And has a lot of true grit and a tremendous amount of tenacity.''
In 1990, she noticed that her left breast was sore. Canady went to the doctor and he told her it was cancer. She had her breast removed. They took out much of the muscle. During recovery, she couldn't raise her arm above her head.
Canady then took up officiating as therapy, cutting down on visits to the physical therapist.
A few years later, another cancer struck her right breast.
In 1993, her right breast was removed.
Canady joked with her doctor about why he just didn't have both of her breasts removed the first time.
''I've always wanted a boob job,'' she said. ``I'm only a 34A.''
In 1995, she got cancer in her hip muscle, with a tumor the size of a grapefruit.
After surgery, the doctor put a colostomy bag on her because she couldn't walk.
''I told him if he didn't take it off, I'd scratch it off,'' Canady said. ``I bellied my way to the bathroom.''
She wasn't supposed to walk for a year. She did it in six months.
''I made a testament to me and my good Lord that I would be walking soon,'' said Canady, who attends New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale.
She took a break from officiating and returned in 1997. Canady wants to become a NFL official.
In the meantime, she hustles during football season.
As a conference official, she makes $662 a game, and that must pay for room, travel and board. Division 1A schools make about double that, plus lodging, Canady said.
Canady, who also works as a pharmaceutical sales representative, says she stores up extra time to be able to attend games during the season. She is divorced and won't tell her age or the ages of her three grown children. Her son, Lamont Cain, is a former University of Miami football star.
Canady says a good official is a perfectionist, aware, and has thick skin. In addition, good officials have wisdom. They don't just throw down the flag.
Canady trains at Cris Carter's Fast Program in Boca Raton. To stay nimble, she does a lot of stretching exercises such as yoga and Pilates. Sometimes Canady's right leg stiffens up, so she must stretch the muscle.
Women are making strides in professional sports officiating, said Jeff Stern, associate editor of Referee magazine. There are female referees in the WNBA, minor league baseball and the NBA.
A woman hasn't broken into the NFL yet.
But that may change.
''The NFL is becoming more proactive in recruiting women and minority candidates,'' Stern said.
As a woman in a male-dominated field, officiating has its quirks.
Canady jokes about how people always ask her what she wears on the field.
'I'm like, `Do you think I put on a miniskirt with boots?' '' she laughs.
Other referees are jealous because when Canady throws down the flag, the players pick it up and hand it to her nicely.
And they have pet names for her.
Quarterbacks often call her Ms. Ref.
Linemen call her Ma. Running backs and receivers call her Auntie.
''I've never had a problem with players,'' she said.
When Canady is not officiating, her shoulder-length hair is in a flip with cinnamon highlights. But as a female referee, it's pulled back into a ball.
''A lot of people still don't know there's a woman out there,'' Canady said.