The idea behind ESPN’s Pro Bowl broadcast recognizing retiring NFL officials is a good one. Officials aren’t usually the focus of games, and whenever there is a lot of chatter about a specific official or crew, it’s often negative. But officiating is a tough job, and doing it for any length of time at the NFL level is remarkable, and a broadcast spotlighting those officials working their final game is a good idea. But some of that gets lost if you misidentify who you’re showing, and that’s what ESPN did during the fourth quarter of Sunday’s Pro Bowl.
There, ESPN showed a photo of three retiring officials. They identified two correctly, referee Tony Corrente and field judge Steve Zimmer. But they put “John McGrath, replay official” as an identifier on field judge Scott Edwards (who was the alternate official for this game). To ESPN’s credit, announcer Steve Levy did discuss Edwards and mention that he was retiring as well immediately after they showed this graphic, but he didn’t mention that they had showed Edwards and identified him as McGrath (who, as a replay official, would have been in a suit rather than in an official’s uniform.)
It’s unclear what led to ESPN identifying those officials incorrectly. Yes, all of Corrente, Zimmer, McGrath and Edwards are retiring, and yes, they were correct to mention all of them, but it’s not great that they put the wrong identification on in the photo. Of course, the vast majority of people watching this game would not have noticed, not knowing what these officials look like. But that’s still an unfortunate error for those who do know these people.
One of them, Greg Sherman of “Mr. Bowtie’s Texas High School Sports Machine,” pointed this error out to AA: Sherman interviewed Edwards back in 2016, and spoke to him about his long career, which included working the infamous “Tuck Rule” game in January 2002 (as field judge: the call in question was made by referee Walt Coleman) and Super Bowl 50. (Edwards would also go on to work Super Bowl 52 two years later, with both his Super Bowls coming with him as side judge.)
This isn’t a huge mistake in the grand scheme of things, and it’s certainly not the only case of mistaken identification we’ve seen from media outlets. But it is an unfortunate mistake. And it certainly would have been better if ESPN had put up correct graphics for the retiring officials they did show.