They are the most common refrains heard around stadiums, sports bars and family rooms from September through February every year—“Are you blind?” “You’ve got to be kidding me!” “Get a life!” NFL officiating, even though accurate more than 98% of the time, draws ire from fans, players, coaches and commentators with the regularity and certainty of a Bill Belichick mumble or a Rex Ryan profanity. Yet, away from the cursory reactions and behind the scenes, officiating professional football has proven to be one of the most demanding—physically, intellectually and emotionally—jobs that exist. The judgment and precision required are for only the most dedicated types; the tenacity and courage for only the most disciplined of souls. And all this for a part-time job!
In his book, The Third Team, Richard Lister artfully illuminates what is normally the background and skillfully debunks many of the myths that surround the responsibilities of those privileged to be NFL officials. More than that, he takes the reader to a world unknown by many outside the profession—the world officials live in the other six days a week. What many will find surprising is that this world is filled with studying and preparing. Like players and coaches, officials spend countless hours reviewing plays, studying rules and test themselves to get closer and closer to 100% accuracy. And, just like players and coaches, officials are constantly driven to succeed, but without any of the glory. Lister shares the agony of wrong calls and the analysis of high-definition instant replay in a way that makes you feel as though you’re making the call. And, get ready, because there’s no other profession where a two percent mistake rate is as scrutinized as this.
In addition to getting to understand the complex world of officiating in the NFL, the readers will get an inside look at some of the greatest officiating commissioners of professional football, not to mention some of the legendary coaches of all time. Hearing what it is like to work on the field with Coaches Shula, Parcells, Holmgren, Mariucci and more is the real bonus of this book. Never will you feel closer to the NFL than after reading these gridiron tales.
NFLRA-Executive Director and NFL Official, 1989-2008;
Coordinator of Football Officiating, Big Ten Conference