Football Zebras celebrates the 33rd team in the NFL: the officiating crews. They are the most vilified when calls go against our team. But, those who put on the striped shirts are the most studied at their game — and they have full-time jobs to boot.
Their judgment must be sharp, because, unlike other sports, one call can easily change a team’s season. Some become so infamous, they are begrudged by fans for many years.
While it is easy to point out the bad calls (which we will do), we will also spotlight the good, tough calls.
Our focus is on NFL officiating, but if something really attracts our attention in college, or even high school, football, we will report on that, too. However, much like the referees we are covering, we are only part-time writers, so we can’t possibly cover every game.
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Your humble scribes
founder & editor-in-chief
Ben Austro (Twitter: @BenAustro) has been an “armchair official” for many years, ever since he wrote to to league office in 1988 and got a copy of the official NFL rulebook.
Then when a Google search of a particular call returned unproductive results of complaints, Ben decided to start working on a site that could provide thoughtful analysis of the officiating. After a pilot run for Super Bowl XLIII, the site was ready to go in earnest for the 2009 season.
“My initial goal was to focus on the rules, but I quickly learned there was an entire officiating culture of men and women, boys and girls, who were interested in many other aspects of officiating.”
Ben is a label compliance manager for a specialty and import food company, and he was once a television weathercaster in the Poconos. He enjoys politics and gardening, and complains about all the weeds growing in both.
Ben is the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref’s Guide to the Official Rules, a book about the rules and how they are interpreted using real-life examples of actual plays.
A graduate of Monmouth University, Ben lives in Jacksonville with his wife and children.
Mark Schultz has been interested in football officiating since he was six years old when he was sitting next to his dad while watching a football game and asked the fateful question, “Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?” Over 30 years later he is a high school football official and an avid student of football officiating. Unfortunately, being a high school official does not pay the bills, so he got a degree in communications from Wheaton College and has worked in the journalism and public relations fields.
When he’s not a high school or armchair official, Mark enjoys time with his wife, daughter, and son. He enjoys watching Indy Car racing, reading historical biographies, and working outside in his yard. He’s is very happy to wed his passion for football officiating with his journalism training at Football Zebras!
Cam Filipe has been involved in officiating since his eighth grade days in Somerset, Mass., when his physical education teacher asked him if he wanted to referee some touch football games for the class to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. Years later, he has officiated everything from basketball, to volleyball, and even high school dodgeball tournaments.
Cam is now a forensic scientist specializing in DNA analysis methods. A graduate of the University of New Haven and Boston University, Cam served as an intramural flag football official and a flag football officiating supervisor and trainer during his undergraduate study, and was assigned to officiate a National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) regional semifinal at the referee position in 2019.
Cam is now in his third season as a high school football official in Massachusetts. He has also officiated for the Women’s Football Alliance (WFA), the world’s largest female professional football league. He was the head linesman for the 2022 Pro National Conference Championship Game between the Pittsburgh Passion and the Boston Renegades.
When he isn’t on the field or knee-deep in textbooks, Cam is an avid game show fan, Walt Disney World guru, and a student of NFL officiating history. You can also probably find him scouring the Internet to find pieces to add to his NFL officiating memorabilia collection.