Can a disgraced soccer referee find redemption -- or at least a decent paycheck -- in a game played with an oval ball?
No, Robert: Your new ball's usually brown
It may well be true that size doesn't matter. But for Robert Hoyzer, the German soccer referee whose name is synonymous with the phrase "betting scandal," shape certainly does.
TV appearances gave way to court appearances for the crooked ref
In January 2005, Hoyzer, then a 25-year-old referee, definitively burnt his bridges with German soccer when he confessed to fixing matches on behalf of a Croatian betting ring.
In what turned out to be Germany's biggest football scandal since the 1970s, Hoyzer is said to have taken home 67,000 euros ($79,900) and a wide-screen TV in exchange for making game-influencing calls in dozens of matches. In the end, however, Hoyzer's hubris earned him more than just money and electronics. He also got a lifetime ban from the game, and a two year, five month prison sentence, currently under appeal.
That other football...
After considering his options, it seems the soccer pariah decided his best chance of salvaging his career lay in an American sport that is, to put it mildly, little known in Europe. You know. That other football.
Hozyer has begun training to be a place kicker with the Berlin Adlers, an American football team that plays in Germany's American football league. He told news agencies he hopes to sign a contract in time for the new season, in April, when Berlin will face off against Dresden.
"I have been training with the team for a week and hope to be able to sign a contract within the next few weeks," Hoyzer told reporters.
The Not Ready for Prime Time Players? Berlin Thunder v. Frankfurt Galaxy
In a comment that seemed to indicate he has at last got the knack for honesty, Hoyzer addressed the downward slide that left him looking for a way to crawl up from the rock-bottom of Germany's sporting heap.
"I do not have a future in (German) football and have considered how best to use my abilities," he said.
So far, Hoyzer has not commented on how it feels to move from a sport that is -- by a very wide margin -- the most popular and prestigious one in Europe, to one that is little understood and even less respected.
Fall from grace
American football players in Germany tend to be either professionals who are past their prime and want to make some extra money on the Euro circuit, or youngsters who haven't yet made it in to the US National Football League but haven't given up their hopes of doing so.
Some previous German soccer pros, like Axel Kruse, Manfred Burgsmüller and Ingo Anderbrügg, have made the switch to American football. But none of them has done it under the same cloud of notoriety as Hoyzer.
If the ex-referee really plans to get along with his American teammates, he may want to start working on his American English idioms. Football phrases like "first down and 10 to go," "do it for the Gipper," and "hail Mary" might come in handy -- along with the old schoolyard standard "cheaters never prosper."