Late January and early February was a rough time to be a referee in America. The stink of a late blown call in the NFC Championship Game was overwhelming and people were extremely upset. John Parry, who drew the referee assignment for the big game, understood his troops would be under the microscope.
So he treated them like actual troops. In an interview with Sports Illustrated, Parry, who will serve as a rules analyst for ESPN, talked about the bizarre way the zebras prepared.
"JP: In that one play, the world just came after officiating like I’ve never seen. I mean, I get it—the officiating world is under attack. I’m sitting on my couch and thinking, good Lord, the next game to be played is us, and we can’t make a mistake. Nothing close to this can happen. You could sense it as the crew prepared. There was probably more nervousness, anxiety, tension. Of course that’s all they talked about leading up to the game. We had to be at our best. But to me, going back to that prep work, I feed off that. Every meeting we had, I had military video. I had anything and everything to motivate and inspire them that ‘we are under attack. We will fight back. And we will come out swinging.’ And to me it was a great defensive football game between two brilliant defensive minds on both sides that were shutting down two brilliant offensive minds. I thought the game was fabulous. Guys were a little bit nervous and we were a little tense and it took probably a little bit longer to settle in, but once they did it was good. JJ: What do you mean by military video? JP: I had storylines of World War II and McArthur and Eisenhower delivering these speeches of ‘we’re under attack’ and ‘we must bring home victory to America.’ We had music. Anything that I could come up with and grab their attention immediately in the beginning of a meeting rather than just sit there and have dull conversation of how we’re going to do this and that. We were like a team that was going to play."
The Super Bowl officials did a solid job. There were few controversial calls in the game and none really impacted the game. So, uh, time to hop on an aircraft carrier and deliver a victory speech under a banner that says Mission Accomplished.
One shouldn’t be surprised that the even those carrying whistles in the NFL are prone to leaning into the whole football-military blurred line. And no one should be surprised that officials are just as over-the-top in their prep as coaches who treat offensive possessions like special ops missions and kick returns like the fate of the free world depends on the outcome.
Perhaps I speak for all of us in saying I wouldn’t mind taking a look at this hype videos. Tremendous content, to be sure.