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Official Business

Many times during the season I am asked, "What's that band around your arm?" or "What's that little card you are always writing on?" or "What's in the center of that little white bag and penalty flag?"

Well, I just thought I would set the record straight about some of the equipment we use.

The little black band around our wrist that has loop for our finger is called a down indicator. We use it to help us keep track of the down by moving the loop from finger to finger for each down, which is very important. Nothing makes a crew of officials look worse than give a team a fifth down.

It is sometimes used by the umpire to keep track of where to spot the ball on the field. On plays where an incompleted pass occurs, the ball should be placed on the previous yard line and the same position in respect to left-right alignment. A secondary marker can be used to help the umpire remembering this positioning.

The little card that officials are constantly taking notes on is called a game card. It is divided into two columns. Each team has their own column. The card is used to keep track of timeouts used/remaining, captains, coin toss results, scoring by quarters, and field position at quarter change.

This is just a little cheat sheet for the officials to keep track of the game.

What is in the little white bag and penalty flag? Well, the white bag is called a throw down bag or bean bag. It is usually filled with sand or beans. They are kept on your belt and they have eliminated the need for throwing one's hat to mark the spot.

The white bag is used to mark spots like out-of-bounds, first touching, fumbles, or receptions on punts for penalty enforcement to name a few. Most are white, but the NFL uses blue bean bags.

Penalty flags are usually weighted with sand, metal chunks, hook for measurements, or small rocks.

As we have seen in an unfortunate accident in the NFL, these can be dangerous if thrown at players to mark spots. The utmost care is used to avoid these incidents.

Hopefully, I have shed some light on these questions and you will know what these pieced of equipment do.

If you have question for an umpire, please write to: The Ironton Tribune, Official Business, P.O. Box 649, Ironton, Ohio 45638. Mike Mahlmeister/Ironton Officials’ Chapter