When Your Dream Dies

After a high school referee blew a call that helped cost him a chance to work a championship football game, his life no longer seemed worth living.
  1. On a refrigerated, colorless Saturday morning in the no-McDonald's town of Walnut, Ill., Kenny Wilcoxen walked along the street carrying the letter he had waited for his whole life, the one that meant that after 20 years he was finally going to ref the state high school football finals. On the other side of the letter, written neatly in blue ink, was his suicide note.

    Unblinking, Kenny made his way past the simple little white two-story houses with the big backyards, turned right at Main Street, walked a block and then turned left, passing the one-story Walnut Grade School, where all the kids, K through 8, knew him as the gym teacher, as Coach. Every kid he taught got a nickname: Gerdie for Sharon Gerdes's kid; Tuffy for Brandon Rhodes, his centerfielder; Sarge for Chris Tornow. Kenny was also head coach of the three boys' basketball teams and assistant coach of the track team, the man in charge of the summer baseball programs and the coach of his son's Little League team. When he w...

The complete text of “When Your Dream Dies” is not in the Byliner library, but we love it so much we included an excerpt and a link to the full story on sportsillustrated.cnn.com.

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