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Making the wrong calls for NFL games on CBS is actually Mike Carey's second job

CBS's rules expert is actually an inventor who owns his own snow sports equipment company.

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Mike Carey is much older than he looks. Gander at this man. He is pushing 70 years old, and could pass for one of Peyton Manning's teammates. He's come to be associated with his iffy judgment on replay reviews in the CBS booth the last two years, but before that he was one of the most respected officials in the NFL and the first black man to head an officiating crew at the Super Bowl.

And long, long before that, 10 years before he entered the NFL as a side judge, he made his name as an inventor.

"It was kind of one of those light bulb moments," Carey says. "My wife had just bought me a brand new pair of boots and I was walking through the parking lot in Squaw Valley, and they had just put gravel out, and that's the time that they had just tried to stop lower limb injuries. ... And I just said, 'Hey, I'm going to catch a piece of gravel in my boot, put it in my binding, and the load will be so heavy, I'm going to probably have a chance of hurting myself.' So went back home, made a prototype, did research on materials, made a product and I was lucky enough that it sold."

Carey's invention is called Cat Tracks. It slips over snow boots and saves your soles undue wear while protecting you from debris. You can buy it if you want. The point isn't the product, though. It's the thinking behind it.

Carey says he was "fortunate" to have come across the idea. He's being modest. Here's the more detailed explanation missing in the ellipses above.

So the European standard is called the DIN standard and the American is called the ASTM. They regulated that the boot sole dimension had to fit with the binding system, there had to be an integral relationship and a coefficient of friction that they had to match so that predictable release happened. And then I had been reading articles about that, I went to school here in Santa Clara, and so, I was a voracious reader about snow sports.

Two things: 1) Mike Carey knows a lot of big words, but 2) He had his epiphany because he was prepared.

Carey graduated from Santa Clara University in 1971 with a degree in biology, and also played running back for four years. He did his postgraduate studies in microbiology. Then at some point he decided he was better cut out for business than medicine. With Cat Tracks, he founded his own winter sporting gear company, which he eventually merged with another company to form his current enterprise, Seirus.

Carey got into refereeing to help him get away from the rigors of running a business. He took his mind off work by taking up one of the most stressful "hobbies" in the world.

"What the NFL helps me do is shut this off because when you’re involved in a business, there are so many things you think of all the time that occupy your brain," Carey told the San Diego Union-Tribune in 2013. "With the reffing, you can’t think of anything else because you can’t lapse for a second."

Carey seemingly has a restless mind, which is surprising for a methodical man who talks about "processes" a lot. And for someone who is routinely ridiculed for what he says on air, he is undeniably successful. Seirus has been in operation since 1984, and has grown significantly -- "from two, to 10, to now it's a hundred employees." He believes his business success translated to the field.

"You can't get into the league unless you're really good at your own job outside of the league," Carey says. "It's just one of those things that they make sure that they have. The profiling that they do to make sure, the background studies, the everything. They try to get spotless people. And if you're successful outside of the NFL, they think you'll be very successful inside of the NFL, and they've been proven right."

In Carey's case, his preparedness and diligence may have been his most translatable traits from business to officiating. He says he hasn't changed his weekly routine since he stopped refereeing in 2013. He watches tape weekly, and reads the rulebook every day. He spends extra time reviewing close catch/no-catch calls, "just to keep my brain fresh."

He is still struggling as CBS's in-house rules expert, which is puzzling given his background. He has theories as to why, the biggest being that he lacks the ability to control the replays like he would in the booth. He admits that he has screwed up this season. In November, he thought a Kam Chancellor interception was incomplete and called it "one of those days I wish I hadn't got out of bed."

But though Carey still sort of sucks at his job, he doesn't seem too fazed by his failure. He's seen a lot, done a lot, and dedicated himself for so long to careful thinking that he believes it's only a matter of time before he succeeds again. He'll get better by doubling down on the process.

"We have an axiom in officiating that says, 'When they game starts to speed up, and really going crazy, you gotta go slow,'" Carey says. "Much slower. And you do that by looking at the fine detail."