Referee standing next to an elephant

Make Sure We Make it Big!

I had dinner with my mentor Mark VanGampleare. After I complained about my online poker bad beats, our conversation shifted to the current football season. In recounting a play from a few weeks ago, he said, “We need to ‘make it big.’” I’ve heard Mark use this term in the past, and I thought it would be an appropriate topic for this post.

“Make it big” refers to our elevated physical, vocal, or whistle energy. When we make it big, we exaggerate our typical actions to make sure our crew partners, the coaches and players, and the fans can clearly see (and understand) our intent. We make it big to draw attention to ourselves if we’ve thrown a flag. We make it big to sell a call. We make it big to draw attention to something on the field that is not routine.

Here are some examples of when to make it big:

  • We throw a flag, and the play is now over. We make it big by giving a loud “tweet, tweet, tweet” (look at me!) whistle to draw the crew’s attention.
  • The ball is downed close to the goal line or line-to-gain and the wings need to “sell” the FP spot. We make it big by pinching hard and giving a strong “kill the clock” signal. We also make it big by using our voices to yell, “my ball!” or “we’re short!” By the way, the LJ is essential when the ball is downed close to the LTG. Many times, the HL may not realize the ball is downed within 1 yard of the LTG (beyond or behind). If the LJ is crashing and “making it big,” the HL intuitively knows to mirror the LJ’s behavior and ask for the ball to spot. If you are the HL and the LJ is crashing and waving his arms, ask for the ball if it’s on your side of the field.
  • We rule an incomplete pass because the ball was trapped, hit the ground, or the intended receiver (or defender) stepped out of bounds before completing the catch. We make it big by exaggerating an “arm sweep” (the player was out of bounds), or by slapping the ground with the flat of the hand (the ball hit the ground). Note: This is not a CFOA mechanic.
  • The coach calls a timeout just as the play clock is expiring. We make it big by sprinting onto the field at an angle toward the referee and shouting “I have a timeout before the flag!”
  • A player encroaches or false starts. We make it big by skying the flag (above the head) and stepping onto the field. If the ball has been snapped, we further exaggerate our body movement and whistle to shut down the play.
  • A runner’s forward progress is stopped, and the pile is moving backward. We make it big with a “tweet, tweet, tweet” whistle. If the ball comes loose, we continue to blow the whistle and yell “forward progress here!”
  • A runner is downed by rule and the ball comes out. We make it big with our voices, “Runner was down!”
  • Two players are engaged and the ball has moved to the other side of the field or downfield (this is typically linemen). We use our loud voice and physical presence (when the play is over) to encourage them to disengage.