Referee Ed Hochuli

Referee Ed Hochuli (#85), perhaps the best known active official, is slated to work the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

It will be the first time that Hochuli goes to Honolulu in his 23-year NFL career (21 of them as a crew chief) and only the second time in the last 20 seasons that Hochuli has failed to work at least a playoff game.

Hochuli will be joined by umpire Butch Hannah (#40), head linesman Mark Baltz (#26), line judge Mike Spanier (#90), field judge Buddy Horton (#82), back judge Don Carey (#126) and side judge Don Carlsen (#39). Back judge Richard Reels (#83) will be the alternate official, and both him and Carlsen are set to retire after the game (after 20 and 24 seasons, respectively).

This is a experienced crew, as each of the eight officials selected has at least 14 seasons working in the NFL (usually, the Pro Bowl is worked by retiring or veteran officials, or is also taken as a consolation prize for the 11th ranked official per position). 

As the Pro Bowl has been in the last few years a game with very high scoring and few penalties and hard hits, it's also a good farewell reward for some veteran officials (for the record, the officials are payed $5,000 to work this game, added to their Hawaiian trip) and it is also the showcase for the Art McNally Award, given each year since 2002 to an official who shows leadership, sportsmanship and professionalism off and on the field.

The award is named for McNally, a referee  in the NFL from 1959 through 1967, and the league Director of Officiating from 1968 through March of 1991. At 87 years old, McNally is still employed by the NFL as a Supervisor and many consider him as the top authority ever in all areas of officiating. So if you tune this Sunday for the NFL All-Star Game, check also the officials. For all the criticism and judgements on their weekly work, they are also the best in the country, and way, way better than the replacements we had to endure for the first three weeks of the regular season.