Before Super Bowl 5 in Miami, Norm Schacter, the referee that day, was having breakfast in his hotel coffee shop.
May I have your order?" the waitress asked.
"I don't know whether to have ham and eggs or sausage and eggs," Schater said.
"That'll probably be the toughest call you have all day," the waitress said.
"Well," Schacter said, "let me have the ham and eggs."
Said the waitress: "Well, you blew that one, too."
For the seven officials who will work Sunday's Super Bowl game, there really is no place to hide.
Oh, the league sneaks them into town three days before the game, stashes them in an undisclosed hotel and shields them from the media, absolutely forbidding interviews (and alcoholic beverages).
But this afternoon, 80,000 howlers in the Orange Bowl and 100 million critics will watch referee Pat Haggerty, a veteran of 14 years of NFL officiating, and his six cohorts try to control 90 large men. Heaven forbid they should blow a call.
The seven men selected for the Cowboy-Steeler game have a total of 84 years of NFL experience and an average 25 years officiating in the high school, college and professional levels. Each will earn $3,000, plus expenses, for his work.
Haggerty teaches and coaches in the Denver school system. Umpire Art Demmas is an insurance man from Nashville. Head linesman Jerry Bergman is a transportation manager in Pittsburgh. Line judge Jack Fette is a sporting goods sales manager from Kansas City.
Back judge Pat Knight is a San Antonio lumber executive. Side judge Dean Look is vice president of an insurance company in Okemos, Mich., and field judge Fred Swearingen is a real estate broker in Carlsbad, Calif.
All share a common bond: they are supposed to be the very best at their officiating positions in the NFL, at least according to the grading system compiled week after week by the league office.
"Everything they do, they are graded on -- judgment, decisiveness, position in coverage," said Art McNally, the NFL's supervisor of officials. "All our observers are asked to submit a list of officials, where they rate them 1 through 14. The No. 1 man is reserved for the Super Bowl game. Two through 10 will be in the playoffs, and No. 11 will be asked to be an alternate."
A week ago, McNally sent telegrams to the seven men and the two alternates, informing them they had been selected to work the Super Bowl.
Friday, the crew arrived in Miami, and during the past two days have had about 12 hours of meetings and film review sessions, dealing exclusively with general mechanics and the rule book. All come from different NFL crews.
"They all know their positions and their responsibilities," McNally said. "It's not necessary to keep an entire crew together. They are the best, and they have no trouble working together."
McNally and NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle insisted this week they do not specifically ask the officials to go easy on minor penalties. Nor, they said, do they point out that a certain player is a notorious holder, that another is a vicious head-slapper.
"In fact, they are absolutely forbidden to discuss anything negative about the two teams," McNally said. "We block that stuff out. I will just not permit it. As far as telling them what to call, they know, and we emphasize this all year, that if it's a cheap call, we don't want it. We don't want a technical flag drop."
Rozelle and McNally also do not want their men bothered by the socalled distractions of Super Bowl week. That is the reason for the supersecrecy and the noninterview policy.
"We do not want to put these guys under any more pressure than they're already getting," McNally said.
Schacter, who has refereed three Super Bowls, including the first, and is now retired, insisted the other day that the pressure of a Super Bowl game has never gotten to him.
"Maybe I was just lucky, because I never felt it. Any official who reaches the NFL has gone through it all before. They won't even look at you unless you've got 10 years experience in high school or college, and the guys in the Super Bowl game have been through it all before.
"My rule of thumb for the crew was always 'don't blow the whistle unless you see the ball.' I always say, 'Is it right or wrong, a foul or not a foul?' And if you don't know what a foul is, you shouldn't be here."
The first 12 Super Bowl games have seen a wide variance in the number of penalties assessed. During the 1978 regular season, an average of 13 accepted penalties were called per game. The Super Bowl games have averaged about seven calls.
Last year in the Denver-Dallas Super Bowl, 20 penalties were called. When the Cowboys played the Steelers in the 1975 game, there were only two, a statistic that has not gone unnoticed this week, particularly in the Cowboy camp.
"In 1975, we didn't expect the game to be as intimidating as it was," said Cowboy Coach Tom Landry. "We didn't mind the hitting. The only thing we resented was there wasn't a penalty called. Our receivers couldn't get down field.
"I don't usually concern myself with officiating. I just believe they have good days and bad days like everyone else. But the thing they must control is the physical aspect -- they can't let it get out of hand."
Cowboy safety Cliff Harris was more critical earlier this week.
"They (the officials) didn't see a lot of things last time," he said. "And I hope they don't choke again. We play in the boundaries of the rules... I just hope the ref watches closely."
Certainly league officials know their game officials will be watched closely, and, earlier this week, Rozelle himself spent two hours in a special press conference and film show devoted to officiating.
There were film and video-tape clips of 28 controversial plays during the season. In most cases officials did make the proper call.
(Washingtonians can take some solace from the fact that one blown call came in the Redskins' Monday night game against the Colts, when Danny Buggs clearly got both feet down in bounds on a sideline pattern, even though the pass was nullified.)
"They'll blow some, too," Rozelle said, 'but when you consider you've got 160 plays a game and there are 22 players on the field, there's a potential for 3,500 calls a game. Multiply that times 14 games a week and you have 49,000 calls. And these guys are right a very high percentage of the time.
"When they are wrong, we try to figure out why, and hopefully we can prevent it from happening again. Maybe we'll change the position of a man so he can get a better view, that sort of thing."
As usual, Rozelle also indicated the league still is not convinced instantreplay television cameras are the answer. The league made a study of instant replays from seven network preseason telecasts and will report these finding to the owners in March.
"There are three major problems as we see it," Rozelle said. "Number 1 is solving the problem of extending the game in time. Also, how do you factor in a second incident that shows up on the replay you are reviewing. And third, we'll be at the mercy of the camera.
"Say the camera angle is correct and you overrule the official. Now, another time there is a challenge and the camera angle is not conclusive, and the play stands as called. The next day, you look at their game films and see there was a mistake. Now they feel wronged and they probably should. How do you deal with that? We still have to figure that out.
"But officiating flak is not new, it's been there all the time. It's accentuated now because of the instant replay and television. Last year 100 million people watched the game. Everything is so magnified.
"I remember in 1957, I was general manager of the Rams. Bert Bell actually walked out of a room and threatened to quit as commissioner because he was getting so much criticism of the officiating."
And what did Rozelle tell the Super Bowl crew for the 1979 affair when he met with them Saturday?
"I said, 'Do well.'"