Keeping the game's sanity
By Patrick Hruby
Page 2 columnist

We know, we know: They're blind. Deaf. Mostly dumb. And generally unfit to share a uniform with the dedicated men and women of Foot Locker. Still, the next time you reach back to hurl a rusty D-Cell -- or a strongly-worded letter, assuming you're Ralph Nader -- at the men and women in black and white, ask yourself a simple question:

Page 2's heroes
  • Ralph Wiley on Allen Iverson
  • Brian Murphy on Joe Montana
  • Jim Caple on Charlie Brown
  • Jason Whitlock on Reggie Miller
  • Eric Neel on Magic Johnson
  • Tim Keown on Roberto Clemente
  • Dan Shanoff on Gary Barnett
  • What's the alternative?

    Face it: The zebras are the only thing standing between real sports and professional wrestling, between legitimate competition and "Lord of the Flies"-style schoolyard dodgeball. Imagine an NHL with even more hooking and grabbing. An NBA beset by call-your-own-foul chaos. An NFL where anything goes and kickers are roughed with alarming regularity.

    Actually, that doesn't sound so bad.

    Point is, the officials are a necessary evil, like beer cutoff times and male college cheerleaders. Besides, they're always there to take the blame, silent and uncomplaining, day in and day out. And at the bitter end -- when the lead's blown and the season's shot -- isn't that what we're really after?

    Patrick Hruby is a sportswriter for the Washington Times. You can reach him at


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