Mike Pereira was made available on behalf of Buffalo Wild Wings, where he’s doing a campaign centered around the football prenupwhere significant others can make a deal about who gets the TV when during football season. We spoke to him about the charity he founded to get veterans into officiating, the new pass interference review process, and why he’s excelled in the broadcasting booth for FOX.
Ryan Glasspiegel: You’ve been really productive with the Battlefields to Ballfields charity where you provide scholarships to veterans looking to get trained for officiating. How did you decide to do that and what has been the impact so far?
Mike Pereira: I decided to do it on a long drive, thinking about veterans that I had met that were struggling. Three were homeless. They were kind of displaced when they got back to their communities.
I thought about veterans who actually defended our freedoms and I thought about their characteristics: Courage, teamwork, confidence, mission. I said all of that is what makes a good official.
So I put this program together to basically get more officials involved in sports, and secondly to give these veterans a chance to serve again. To get involved with their community and as a role model with kids.
We now have 230 either veterans or active service members, who we also open the program up to, around the country from Rochester, N,Y., to San Diego, Ca.
They’re doing all kinds of sports, and actually 17 of them are now doing multiple sports. It’s gotten them involved and it’s been really great.
RG: I know the program was just founded in 2016, but what’s the furthest somebody from it has advanced thus far? Has anyone gotten to Division I yet?
MP: No, not yet. We have one from North Carolina who is doing some replay work on the college level, but the program’s only three years old and it takes awhile to get through the officiating ranks. You start in youth football, or youth basketball, and a lot of our veterans are probably at the age where they don’t have enough time left to get the experience they need [to get to the top].
We have run across some who really look like they might be outstanding, but I wouldn’t expect to see them on the college level until they have probably seven or eight years involved in officiating. It was 25 years before I go to the NFL, and I don’t think I’m really different than a lot of other guys.
RG: What do you think the impact is going to be this season with the pass interference penalty reviews?
MP: It’s going to be a lot less than people thought it was going to be. I think that there are going to be more stops in the preseason than there were in the regular season because right now coaches are being aggressive and challenging just so they can get the standard of how New York is going to do this.
They’ve averaged only one stoppage per game in the preseason. But if the coaches are smart, they will have figured this out. Every time in the preseason that the coach has thrown the challenge flag challenging the offensive or defensive pass interference penalty that was made on the field, none have been reversed. They’re staying with the penalty call they made on the field.
They’re focusing far more on the ones that aren’t called, like the one that happened in New Orleans in the Saints-Rams game. Of the 48 total replay stoppages pertaining to pass interference in the preseason, only six have been reversed. Those six are when they’ve added the penalty on the play. I think that will be the same in the regular season.
RG: Were you in favor of this rule change?
MP: No. I was not because it involves too much judgment and I would rather see a replay based on facts. That’s the way it was when we first started out with this in 1999, but whether or not I’m in favor of it the only thing I can say is that someone changed my mind based on the way it’s been applied in the preseason.
Remember, it’s a one-year rule. It has to be voted back in next year. Rules have been put in and taken out after one year before. If they stay with the same application that they’ve done so far, I think there’s a chance that it does become permanent.
RG: Regarding your work in the booth, you make it look so easy. I think we all know it’s not by virtue of the fact that, and I don’t want to name names, some other people have really struggled both in the communication delivery and also the extent to which they get the calls right. Why do you think you’ve been so successful at this?
MP: Well, I think I’ve been somewhat successful because I’m a rather simple person. I learn a rule not by the actual verbiage of the rulebook, but I learn it all in my own lingo. That’s simple. I’m able to project a complicated rule in a simple form.
I also think that people want to be educated on the rules. My job’s not to be controversial. My job is to be educational. And, it was a missing link. Everyone heard from ex-coaches, ex-players, and play-by-play guys, but they never heard from an official.
It kind of opens up fans’ understanding of the games and how they’re officiated. The newness of it all led to my being somewhat accepted.
RG: Do you think that since you’ve established such a point of credibility that when they’re in the New York office and you’re discussing it on television, that they take your input into account in impacting the ultimate decision in any way?
MP: No, I’ve been in there and seen how the process works and they don’t listen to me. They have setups there that they’re watching all the games on FOX and CBS and they don’t have audio on them at all.
Al Riveron and his staff are looking at the play and talking to the referees on the field. They don’t have time to listen to me. They probably don’t want to…
RG: I just think that you’ve had such a track record of success getting these right that I wouldn’t rule out that they’re letting you lead it to some extent now. Who knows …
MP: You give me a little more credit than I do. I assure you that there are enough times that I disagree with the calls that they make on the field, whether that’s a pass interference or a holding call, I disagree enough that I don’t think they really want to listen to me.