The officials have come from as far as Madison, Wis., a four-hour drive, for this meeting. They are not reimbursed. They are regular guys: an accountant, an educator, a lawyer, an optician, a pharmacist, an airline pilot. And they all love football. "I just want to stay close to the game," says Marchman, "and the field is as close as you can get."
Parry plunges in. "We live in a fish-bowl," he says. "It's a tragedy that two lousy plays have gotten so much attention. But you wouldn't be here if you weren't pretty good. The weakness that seems to be creeping up is we're watching the ball too much instead of people. We have to be great people-watchers."
The tape runs back and forth. There's the Illinois forward lateral. Over and over, Parry shows the play. "It's forward," he says with a sigh. Head linesman Ed Peters, who should have spotted the infraction, watches in silent agony.
Finally, mercifully, Parry moves on. But then comes the Michigan no-pass-interference call. "We were wrong," says Parry. "We kicked it." Back and forth goes the tape. "We made a mistake in the ninth inning with the bases loaded." Back and forth. "The sad part is this game was beautifully officiated. It was as good as it can get. Then this." Back and forth. It's as though one more look might complete the purging.
Parry asks the officials not to talk with the press about their recent errors and to keep a low profile. "Does that mean no commercials?" asks one jokingly.
"Yeah," says Parry, "and I also don't want you making porno movies."
The laughter feels good. Parry's wife, Pat, brings out snacks, including 200 Swedish meatballs. It's sort of like a wake. Tom Hofmann, a phys-ed instructor at Grand Rapids Junior College and a member of the twice-stung crew, says, "[The mistakes] make me want to get out there even more and not let it happen again. If one of us in the crew doesn't do it, none of us do it."
Another member of that crew, former Chicago cop Frank Strocchia, who has been a Big Ten official for 23 years, says, "Look, if we keep making mistakes, we don't belong. We embarrassed the hell out of all these men here."
He is ashen. In fact, side judge Wilson Jackson was in the best position to make the pass-interference call against Michigan State, but any member of the crew can make a call if he sees an infraction. In a sense, although each official has specific areas of responsibility, he is responsible for everything. Parry issued each crew member a formal letter of reprimand. "I have no problem with that," says Strocchia. "We screwed up. Something had to be done. I would have been tougher on us than that."
The officials review 92 plays from previous games. Shortly before 10 p.m. they head home. Thinking. Brooding.