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Football referees explain how bad calls in Packers game happened

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GREEN BAY, Wis. (CBS 58) -- A referee’s mistake helped the Green Bay Packers narrowly beat the Detroit Lions this week. 

No one likes when officiating becomes the focus of a game, and it’s becoming a job fewer and fewer people want.

Longtime referees will tell you it takes a special kind of person to put on the stripes.

“I’ve been doing it for over 40 years, and it’s part of my life,” said Jeff Stern, who referees football and basketball. “It’s part of who I am.”

Stern says an official making a split-second call is like reacting to a deer running in front of your car.

“You don’t think about what down it is,” he said. “You don’t think about how much time is left. You just call on your experience and react to what you see.”

Brad Tittrington referees football, basketball and softball.

He says the relative ease of criticizing officials on social media has put them under more scrutiny than ever.

“They don’t get to watch it in slow motion replay like we do [on TV],” Tittrington said. “Players get bigger, faster, stronger. It’s hard to see 22 guys moving that quickly.”

Most NFL referees are members of the National Association of Sports Officials.

Barry Mano, the president and founder of NASO, says bad calls are just part of the job.

“You call what you believe you saw,” Mano said. “I don’t know what else you can do.”

Most people who start officiating don’t stick with it.

Seven out of 10 new referees quit in the first three years.

“People don’t want to come in and do this for $40, $50, $60 a game and put up with what we have to put up with,” Mano said.

Joan Gralla, the manager of officials licensing for the WIAA, says schools around Wisconsin have reported to her that high school football could be hurting in five years.

At the highest levels though, Mano says there’s no shortage.

He says working a major college football or basketball game can pay around $3,500, and top NFL referees can earn $10,000 per game.

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