By Mike Max

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — There are those that make a difference without a lot of fanfare without a lot of recognition.

Take Mike Karnas. He’s worked in the Richfield athletic office for years. And he’s worked as a basketball and football referee for 46 seasons.

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This has been a very different year with COVID-19 concerns, but his love for the game remains the same.

In his shop, Karnas is working on his hobby — designing awards, making trophies and re-cycling trophies.

This year, he’s just trying to help everyone get through it.

“It’s kind of eerie walking into a gym. There’s no fans, there’s no band, there’s no cheerleaders,” he said.

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He toils in his own labor of love, and his goals have changed over the years, because he understands the people competing.

“It’s the satisfaction of getting kids from point A to point B,” he said.

He spends his fall on a football crew. It’s not about the game, it’s about the people, the teams he refs, the team he’s on.

“My best friends in the world are referees,” he said. “I’m seeing grandkids now. I have three grandkids myself, but I’m seeing grandkids of classmates of mine,” he said.

Yes, it’s his hobby, his love, and in 2021 it’s his opportunity to help the sports community get through it all.

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“Our objective now is just to work with kids and work with parents and coaches and stuff, to make it a positive deal. Everybody’s in the same boat,” he said.

Mike Max