PLHS alum pens timely book glimpsing inside lives of NFL refs
by Scott Hopkins
Published - 10/04/12 - 12:36 PM | 6819 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A new book titled “The Third Team: NFL Officials —Their Lives, Their Stories” was written by Richard Lister, a local attorney and 1969 graduate of Point Loma High.               Courtesy
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It’s the hottest story in professional sports right now.

The National Football League thought it could play the 2012 season using replacement referees while it negotiated a new contract with its regular staff of game officials.

A local attorney and Point Loma High School alum (class of 1969) who has written the definitive book on NFL referees after more than two years of research, knew the NFL’s plan was a disaster waiting to happen.

“You can’t just replace 1,300-plus years of [combined] experience with 119 rookies,” Richard Lister said, referring to the recently resolved situation.

His book, “The Third Team: NFL Officials — Their Lives, Their Stories” is a rare and up-close look at the men in stripes at NFL games.

Lister traveled the U.S. to conduct in-depth interviews with current and former NFL “zebras,” and takes readers inside their minds, onto the field and shares the sometimes intense, often humorous sideline happenings and discussions that, until now, have likely never been heard by viewers and fans.

Among his findings, Lister describes men who are intensely driven to be 100 percent correct on every call they make, why the modern NFL is so difficult to officiate, how instant replay has changed their approach, the agony of wrong calls and the intense scrutiny referees are subjected to.

Besides game officials, Lister also sought the views of some big-name NFL coaches, including Tony Dungy, about their views and on-field interactions with the referees.

“I love this book because it humanizes [our] profession,” said former NFL referee Bill Carollo. “Lister shows the sacrifice, dedication and sense of humor that make NFL officials the greatest in sport. [Lister] has shed light on a world that will undoubtedly educate and inspire his readers.”

To purchase a copy of “The Third Team,” ($16.95, plus shipping), visit or the book’s website at

“The Third Team: NFL Officials—Their Lives, Their Stories,” is 404 pages and is published by VRL One Publishing, San Marcos.
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