Tunney Officially Tells Story of Life

by Gary Graves – USA Today

USA Today

While becoming a Hall of Fame candidate by officiating some of the NFL’s most memorable games, Jim Tunney also gained perspective.

Some of those reflections were featured in his 1988 book Impartial Judgment: The Dean of NFL Referees Calls Pro Football As He Sees It.

But after further review, Tunney realized players, coaches and fellow officials had their own tales of triumph and fulfillment.

So began a three-year quest for anecdotes culminating in Chicken Soup for the Sports Fan’s Soul, the latest in the series of inspirational books. If this seems like new territory for Tunney, consider that he rose through the ranks while honing a fine career in education.

”You pick up the paper and see the negative stuff, but I felt there were hundreds of positive stories out there,” said Tunney, 71, who refereed from 1960-91. “Those are the stories I want to get out.”

Tunney’s recollection of Tom Dempsey’s record63-yard field goal Nov. 8, 1970, is one of his several entries in the 101-story book. Also contributing are Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, broadcasters Dick Vitale and Bob Costas and tennis player Monica Seles.

When given the go-ahead by co-authors Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (along with Mark and Chrissy Donnelly) in February 1997, Tunney mailed about 700 letters. He soon received replies from former NFL coaches Mike Ditka and Bobby Ross, and Costas sent his 1995 eulogy for Yankees great Mickey Mantle.

Of course, Tunney’s life is a tale itself. In between officiating three Super Bowls and such milestone games as the ”Ice Bowl” and “The Catch,” he rose from high school teacher to administrator and eventually superintendent in California, and he is a trustee at the York School and Monterey Peninsula College.

Now a motivational speaker and the founder of a youth foundation, Tunney finds himself on the verge of joining NFL immortals in Canton, Ohio — and serving as another example of inspiration.

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