Steratore: Referees Are Human, Don't Want To Be Seen

Gene Steratore explained the challenges that come with officiating – and how calls on the field can impact your personal life

The DA Show
January 30, 2019 - 10:58 am

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A missed pass interference call influenced the outcome of the NFC Championship, and although Gene Steratore wasn’t on the field for that blunder, he felt immediately uncomfortable. 

“You feel uncomfortable because you love the game,” the former NFL referee and current CBS Sports rules analyst said on The DA Show. “We always want – as officials and fans – to let the play on the field dictate the outcome of the game. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need the officials involved. We do need the officials involved when it’s appropriate and applicable. But when you see a play like that, the mistake occurs, and it’s an empty feeling. It’s an empty feeling for the game first, and then it becomes more human for me because of being an official and understanding what happens as a result.”

Yes, believe it or not, sports fans, referees are humans, too.

“Once you’re an official, you’re always an official,” Steratore said. “You always will be able to empathize and understand that world that officials live in regardless of their sport. So the first thing that goes to you naturally is the realization of what has just happened and what the ramifications will be to you personally. But everybody that’s worked a long career will have their share of controversies at times. You also understand what occurs with their family and with all their support systems in a normal human environment – which we lose at times when it comes to officials. We dehumanize them to some extent.”

Officials, Steratore explained, do not want recognition or publicity. They simply want to do their jobs and not be seen. 

“It was an understood and accepted thing as an official,” Steratore said. “Great officials wear that as a badge of honor. They don’t want to be seen or recognized, and that’s the greatest compliment you can provide an official. That’s what you strive to do. These guys go in front of hundreds of millions of people through the course of their career, and their objective is to not be recognized. That’s kind of unique in our world today.”

Steratore also expounded on the physical demands of officiating. Referees aren’t pro athletes, but there’s athleticism in what they do.

“I’m in my mid-50s. Father Time is winning the physical battle,” Steratore said. “But if you have any idea the level of concentration that you have to apply during these six-second windows of plays for three straight hours and not miss anything and sometimes not blink – because a blink could be (a missed call) – and the emotion involved in that and managing people in an intense atmosphere for three straight hours and managing a lot of people who are not being told no for the rest of their lives other than on the field by me – that’s a level of athleticism that doesn’t occur too often in this day and age, believe me.”

Click below to listen to Steratore's interview in its entirety.