CLOSE CALLS: The Confessions of a NFL Referee by Norm Schachter

CLOSE CALLS: The Confessions of a NFL Referee

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The earthy, engaging memoir of a ref who takes aggrieved second-guessing by fans, players, coaches, and even sportscasters in stride. During his career as a zebra (so-called for the black-and-white shirt that's standard for officials in any league), Schachter worked more. than 400 NFL games, including Super Bowl X (his last stint), over a 22-year span; and collected a wealth of grand gridiron tales. One such is an account of the Freeze Bowl in Green Bay, which pitted the Packers against the Dallas Cowboys for the 1967 NFL championship. At 25 below zero, Schachter's crew could not use their whistles; the wooden balls had frozen stiff. So the numbed officials made do with voice commands, and few fans noticed the difference. Few gridsters, Schachter claims, ever got the best of him in a one-on-one dialogue. An exception was Alex Karras, who once argued so heatedly about a tripping call that Schachter warned him against unsportsmanlike conduct. Could he be penalized for thinking? Karras asked. When told the answer was no, he said: ""Well, I think you're a blind sonuvabitch, ref."" No flag was thrown. Between yarns, Schachter finds time to explain the individual roles played by each member of an officiating crew; to review the arduous apprenticeship required to practice his offbeat avocation (for top pay of $800 per game); to expose some tricks of the trade--e.g., deciding when to grant the extra time-outs needed to accommodate TV commercials--and expand on fine points of the rules. If Schachter reveals little of his off-field life, he still tells great stories--in locker-room language. It all goes down as smoothly as a post-game brew in the company of friends with the gift of gab.

Pub Date: Dec. 10th, 1981
Publisher: Morrow