This past weekend, we went to a college Football game (and by “game” I mean the exact opposite of a game in which some people wore some parts of uniforms and some plays were run on an intrasquad basis. Occasionally a rule or two was even followed.)
But it was a beautiful spring day (I know! I was as surprised as everyone else in Ohio) and it was football and we had a lovely time.
You already know this because you took us.
You also know that I asked a question neither you nor Dad could answer (extra points for me). Specifically, I wanted to know what the “H” on the back of one of the official’s uniform meant. No one on the planet knew (and by “no one on the planet I mean neither you nor Dad knew). I spent some time thinking about it.
“Honorary Umpire” was my best guess once I decided that “Heaven Help Us All” and “Hurry Up with the Next Play” Person were out of the running.
But, being the kind of mom I am, I decided to consult MFtI and I am now an expert on football (the American kind) officiating.
Football officiating teams are supposed to operate like a well-oiled hierarchical machine. In order to avoid injury, there are special exercises designed specifically for the officials so that they avoid injury during a sharp blast of a whistle or a crisp yellow card. Oops, wrong football.
Officials are commonly called zebras because of their striped jerseys. (True Interesting Fact: officials used to wear white shirts, but when a quarterback handed college football referee Llyod Olds the ball at the start of a play, Lloyd got out his Sharpie and the shirts were changed. [OK, I made up the part about the Sharpie. The rest is true.])
If you are you, you call the officials Tweetie Birds, which I like even better than zebras. Attention, World: This is an official announcement that we are now referring to Tweetie Birds and leaving the zebras in the zoo.
On the back of each jersey is a letter indicating the role each official officially holds: Referee, Umpire, Head Linesman (AHA! The “H”!—the Head Linesman is now called the Down Judge but not everyone has gotten a new jersey), Line Judge, Back Judge, Side Judge, Center Judge (in Division I football), Field Judge, and Judge Judy.
Over the years the colors of the hats and jerseys have changed, but no one cares except the people who wash the laundry for the officials. (Who does that? Are there official equipment managers?)
The Referee is the Head Number One Supreme Honcho on the football field. Or at least he was until Instant Replay and the New Rules were introduced. Now he’s a figurehead who gets to explain complicated rulings that make everyone unhappy. If he’s in the mood and his mike is working. He’s also in charge of counting the number of offensive players on the field. At least until they start sweating, at which point everyone out there is pretty offensive. (Sweaty Stinky Man Smell times a lot of men. Lovely. Nose plugs given as part of the standard equipment package.)
The Umpire stands behind the defense and also counts offensive players (just in case there are a different number from the other direction). The Umpire is notable for being the only official wearing a vowel (the others have to buy their own vowels). The Umpire position is the most physically dangerous officiating position. The Umpire is also in charge of making sure all the players’ equipment is legal.
The Head Linesman (now called Down Judge) stands with the chain gang crew looking for offsides, encroachment, and other pre-snap fouls. He marks the forward progress of the ball and is the Keeper of the Chain Clip to mark the first down.
The Line Judge stands at the other end of the line of scrimmage from the Down Judge looking for all the same pre-snap infractions the DJ is looking for. The Line Judge also counts the offensive players because apparently the number of players is a BFD and One Can’t Be Too Sure. The Line Judge is also the timekeeper (or backup timekeeper).
The Field Judge is responsible for checking the conditions of the grass. This is a less important on artificial surfaces. He rules on pass interference, illegal blocks downfield, and incomplete passes. He also counts defensive players because there are more than enough people counting the offense. Most importantly, he’s one of the dudes standing at the goal posts when there is a PAT or FG attempt.
The Side Judge rules on dishes like potatoes and asparagus (just think about it for a minute—it’s funny). He more or less does the same thing the Field Judge does but on the other side of the field.
The Back Judge does a lot of the same things the Side and Field Judges do, and he also has the joy of ruling on “delay of game” infractions.
Now you know.