February 02, 2004

Football Officiating - PSA

Sports Illustrated (Feb 2, 2004 issue) has an interesting two-page spread showing the positioning and responsibilities of each member of the officiating crew at an NFL football game. This is perfect for explaining to those learning the game just what it is those guys in the zebra shirts do.

You should get a copy to read their excellent complete descriptions, but here I'm going to briefly touch on each and some of their lesser-known duties and roles.

Referee: Final authority of the crew, he's responsible for all calls concerning the quarterbacks and kickers. To become the 'head', he must best other officials in mock gladiatorial combat using whistles and weighted flags.

Field Judge: Key in determining pass interference and whether ball carrier crosses the goal line. An obscure rule requires this official to have webbed toes.

Line Judge: Responsible for calling offsides and false starts, as well as whether illegal players are downfield before ball is kicked. A rather unglamorous position among the crew, his chief perk is that he gets the locker with best view of the cheerleaders at Philadelphia's Veterans stadium.

Back Judge: Concentrates on action involving tight end. Monitors 25- and 40- second play clocks for delay of game calls. Because of prominent position on field of play, during the last contract negotiations the Back Judge was almost required to wear advertising gimmick of home stadium sponsor. This idea was dropped when Enron wanted official to wear a giant chrome screw protruding from back of pants.

Umpire: Responsible for keeping emotional players separated, holding calls along the line and interference calls on short passes. The toughest of the officials, these are the guys who consistently get run over during the game. By tradition they automatically get 'shotgun' to and from game.

Head Linesman: He calls encroachment, offsides and false starts, marks the spot of a ballcarrier's forward progress and oversees the chain crew. Also responsible for holding and evenly distributing tips and bribes among crew. Must write thank you notes.

Side Judge: Same general duties as Field Judge, minus requirement for webbed toes. This is the only official specifically mentioned in the Mayflower Compact of 1620.

Posted by Ted at February 2, 2004 06:30 AM
Category: Square Pegs

What was really cool about that issue was the cover: The coin flip at the first Championship game. Two captains from each team shaking hands, one official, and a whole lotta green.

Posted by: Victor at February 2, 2004 08:21 PM

Only in America could there be a game where there are more officials than players.

Posted by: Simon at February 3, 2004 05:11 AM

LOL 11 players per side, Simon. They still outnumber the refs.

Posted by: Ted at February 3, 2004 07:34 AM
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