“The pandemic may have had a lethal effect on American manners. Lawyers are reporting ruder clients. Restaurants are reporting ruder clients. Flight attendants, for whom rude clients are no novelty, are reporting mayhem; passenger fines have exceeded $1 million this year. Re-entry into society is proving to be a little bumpy.” — Belinda Luscombe, “The Rudeness Epidemic,” Time Magazine
A little bumpy? Ya think? Let’s not kid ourselves. The pandemic might have delivered the fatal blow to whatever was left of American manners, but it was only the final stroke in a long-running illness. Civility in this country has been on life support for years. If you don’t believe that fact, you haven’t been in a hockey rink for decades. And there’s one small group of people who understand that reality better than most.
That “small group” is the bane of every hockey fan, yet we can’t play the game without them. The truth is the players actually appreciate them because they maintain some sense of order on the ice. “They,” of course, are the referees. The zebras. The men and women (and often boys and girls) with perhaps the most thankless job not only in hockey, not only in sports but anywhere.