Super Bowl LII had millions of football fans with their eyes glued to television sets to watch the New England Patriots face off against the Philadelphia Eagles. With all the passes, blocks, turnovers and tackles, the player action on the field is what commanded fans’ attention.
But the outcome of the game often rests on the shoulders – actually the eyes – of one man who isn’t a professional athlete: The referee. And how many thousands of fans have shouted at the ref: “Get your eyes checked!” after a questionable play call?
In that Super Bowl, the eyes calling the plays with the potential to determine who wins, or loses, the game belonged to Gene Steratore, a veteran game official who has been a referee with the NFL since 2006.
Interestingly, it appears Mr. Steratore requires vision correction. In fact, it was reported back in 2014 that a game he was officiating was delayed because his contact lens came out during the first quarter.
Those types of disruptions during critical moments in life is why many, including professional athletes, have turned to laser vision correction procedures to improve their vision so they don’t have to rely on contacts and glasses to see clearly. Because when you need sharp, accurate vision instantaneously, contacts and glasses have a habit of letting you down.
Mr. Steratore’s eyes had to be focused on catch completions given the league’s controversial catch rule. The catch rule requires a player to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground, when a lot can happen – including hits, fumbles and turnovers – all in a split second.
Judging those plays accurately puts intense demands on the referee’s vision. And Mr. Steratore has a storied history with the NFL catch rule – having been the referee in two high profile catch calls since the rule went into effect, one during a playoff game in the 2014 post season.
Clearly the vision of the players on the field isn’t the only vision that matters – what and how clearly the refs see can have just as big an impact.