As a longtime football official of games at various levels, I find the latest football inflation issue disturbing.

I read the article, “Players, coaches react to Patriots,” in the Jan. 22 newspaper, and the accompanying online comments, and it seems that one thing that has been omitted in all the media hype regarding this issue: The bottom-line responsibility, when it starts and how it works.

Game officials not only are responsible for officiating a game, but also must ensure that all other game facilities (field and markings), game equipment (player equipment such as pads, helmets, etc.), and game balls meet the standards and requirements at the beginning of each game.

Any player who is not dressed properly with the required equipment will not be allowed to play. During the game, any player found to not be legally equipped will be sent to the sidelines and the referee can penalize the team 15 yards.

Before the game, the head coach presents his game balls for inspection. I check the inflation with a squeeze of my hand, and can easily detect a ball that is under- or over- inflated. I then mark all balls that may be used in the game.

Since the referee and umpire handle the ball on practically every play of a game, they would immediately detect if any change in ball inflation occurred. At that point, it should be dealt with the same as faulty equipment: It leaves the game, and a new ball comes in. If a team inserts a ball that doesn’t have my pre-game mark, it would be rejected, and the head coach can be penalized 15 yards (unsportsmanlike conduct) for not using pre-approved equipment.

None of these issues regarding game balls, field or player equipment should ever be an issue after a game. They are and should be dealt with prior to and during a game by the people who are responsible and being paid for the game’s management and administration.

The game officials are the police of the game and are paid to administer and ensure that the game is being played within the rules, including the ball inflation.

Lewis P. Pelletier, of Winslow, is an active 48-year veteran football official, having officiated games at high school, college and semi-professional levels.


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