April 12, 2012
Story By Santa Clara Student Gabriel Taylor '12
Rules are rules. But players and coaches disregard them at times in the midst of the action-packed NFL. And fans lack the knowledge to truly understand all the rules. That's where Mike Pereira '73 comes in.
The former NFL Vice President of Officiating, and current Fox Sports Rules Analyst's illustrious career has crowned him the 'rule guru'. With a vast understanding of the game, Pereira's voice resonates with fans across the globe, providing insight to the calls made on the field.
"Ultimately what I'm trying to do is make people better understand the rules and better understand the game," said Pereira, who joined Fox Sports in 2009.
Pereira's rise to the realm of media was an unexpected occurrence. Although he enjoyed the time he spent doing play-by-play for a baseball team in Anchorage, Alaska, and for the one Santa Clara basketball game he filled in for when the Broncos traveled to Utah way back when, Pereira never envisioned a career in media. When he became an official, this belief became even firmer.
"I was like every other official, and I despised the media because they were critical without any basis of knowledge whatsoever," said Pereira, who later recognized that they simply couldn't be expected to have studied and memorized the NFL Rulebook in its entirety.
After being a side judge in the NFL for two seasons in 1997 and '98, Pereira's resume landed him the position of Vice President of Officiating in 2004. Five years later, the Santa Clara alum entered a realm untouched by any before him. Recognizing fans' desire to hear experts weigh in on certain rules and calls, Fox Sports called on Pereira to fill the void. Pereira's voice is now common during in-game broadcasts, as his commentary and analysis is often sought out for calls made by the officiating staff.
Looking back on his own athletic career as a Bronco, Pereira still vividly remembers the time he connected with a pitch from lefty Ron Bryant, and with help from the 40mph winds, sent the ball over the fence against the San Francisco Giants at Buck Shaw Stadium. The team's win against powerhouse USC with a chance to reach the College World Series is also as clear as California skies. The Broncos won the first game at Buck Shaw and then travelled to LA needing to win just one, but lost both decidedly. His time at Santa Clara on April 10 enabled these memories to flood to the forefront of his mind.
But the most life-altering moment came to him in the form of a decision in 1971. In need of extra cash, Pereira began officiating Pop Warner football games - a decision that prompted his career-path to unfold.
"It was like somebody stuck a syringe in me and filled me with adrenaline," said Pereira, reflecting on the first time he stepped foot on the field as an official. "It captivated me...It immediately became a passion. As strange as it may seem, football officiating became a passion."
Twenty-six years later, he would be standing on the field in front of thousands of die-hard, rambunctious football fans, with a black and white striped shirt signaling his role.
While officiating in the NFL, Pereira worked alongside fellow Santa Clara alum, Mike Carey - even being a part of his crew for two years. Over the course of Pereira's career, the two have grown increasingly closer.
"There's no better quality individual than Mike Carey," said Pereira.
A veteran official, Carey has worked in the league for 19 years. But the lengthy duration of his career has had little wear and tear on the former Bronco.
"He looks like he's 22!" said Pereira.
Both Pereira and Carey are part of the NFL at a pivotal point in the league. With the New Orleans Saints' bounty program being exposed to the public in the form of a Gregg Williams war-like pre-game speech, Roger Goodell and the NFL are in the midst of re-evaluating the NFL in its current state. Comparisons drawn between football players and warriors are ripping the league's image apart.
"Those connected with the NFL don't like certain words. And they don't like the word gladiator and they don't like the word violence," said Pereira. "You cannot tell me that the sport's not violent. They would rather call it controlled aggression."
In Pereira's mind, it comes down to respect.
"I'd like to see more respect in the game," said Pereira, noting excessive celebration and on-going complaints from players and coaches directed at officials. "I don't think any group respects anybody anymore."
If players truly respected one-another, then they would not put fellow athletes at risk of losing their career for a monetary incentive. If coaches had respect for the game, they would not taint it as Gregg Williams and the New Orleans Saints did.
With respect will come a new and improved game that leaves the current problems in the past.
Respect the officials. Respect the coaches. Respect the players. And, of course, respect the rules.