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Published: Monday, 3/5/2001

`Ump, are you blind?'

The things some parents will do to stick it to an umpire or referee making unpopular calls at their little darlings' games never ceases to amaze. But an Arkansas legislator's bill aimed at benching game officials at the junior high and high school level is over the top.

State Rep. Bob Mathis was apparently dead serious when he proposed a measure requiring school umpires, referees, and other sports officials to have their eyes checked every four years.

Proof that such sports arbiters were indeed up to date on their mandated eye exams would also have to be carried to all games at which they officiate. Rep. Mathis explained his intention was to ensure that young athletes got a fair shot; the poor eyesight of game officials is currently compromising that noble goal, he said.

The lawmaker was also concerned that sports officials “have a minimum amount of intelligence” to make calls and added a provision in his bill requiring they produce either a high school diploma or a GED certificate.

Fortunately, wiser fans prevailed in the House Education Committee, which called the outcome for the referees, saying lawmakers had no businesses sticking it to the umps and referees in kids' sports. One legislator mused about applying the same standards for eyes and intelligence to the parents and fans who frequent the school games.

Now there's an idea.

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