referees and penalty announcements

I can understand [American] football referees using hand motions to announce penalties before the use of on field microphones. As long as the microphone is working, why do referees continue to use hand signals when announcing penalties?

For starters…

  • for the deaf and hearing impaired,
  • stadium crowds can overpower a PA system,
  • the sound can be turned down on the TV, etc.

Why is it a problem is they continue to use them? How does that hinder them or affect the game?

The hand signals are used because

  1. Not everyone can hear the announcements
  2. The microphones go out

The hand signals the official notification of the calls and penalties imposed. The microphone and the spoken announcements are for the benefit of the television audience, and aren’t terribly audible to the stadium crowd.

sigh… "The hand signals are the official…

Also sometimes the official’s mike only works for the PA system and not TV or vice versa.

All officials in sports make hand signals in addition to announcements. It’s just how it’s done. Hockey officials make a signal and then say what the penalty is. Basketball officials have various signals, although some are improvised. Tennis officials point and then say “OUT!”. Volleyball officials have all sorts of signals and the linesmen have these cool flags.

Football is one of the few sports where the officials have a mike and make announcements, mainly because the infractions are fairly complex. There can be some fairly complex situations in a baseball game, but the umpires will never get on the PA system to tell you what happened.

I think the officials at golf tournaments don’t make hand signals and they have some pretty complex rulings, but they usually have a rules official available for the TV people to explain what’s going on.

I think much of it is because the football field is so big, and the opposing teams are so far apart. In basketball, the benches are much closer together; in baseball, the signals are very self-evident. Well, that’s my GQ answer.

On second thought, I think all that is pretty much pretext. I think the officials announce the penalties over the PA system because it’s good theater, and that’s really what the NFL is about. For instance, one of the most interesting developments over the past 3 years or so is the concept of a “Coach’s Challenge.” It’s interesting as a rule, yes, but it’s more interesting how the networks have turned something as mundane as instant replay and make it an event. You know, there’s the “split screen” of the two coaches, the huge COACH’S CHALLENGE graphic, the Challenge Clock counting down from 90 seconds, the shot of the referee under the replay hood. It’s theater. The NFL loves that stuff, and I believe the stadium mic is an early incarnation of that.