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Whistle-Blowing On Whistle-Blowers

Ralph Nader was in the news last week. He wasn't outraged about car safety, corporate welfare, or campaign finance reform. He was angry about the officiating in the sixth NBA playoff game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings. Like many people, he was implying that because it would help NBC, basketball referees might have favored the Lakers.

I'm not a big conspiracy guy (In fact, like many people my age, I'm starting to accept the fact that there's a good chance that Oswald killed Kennedy). However, I have to admit that the referees seemed more interested in calling fouls on the Kings than on the Lakers. So his being upset doesn't surprise me. What surprises me is that Ralph Nader would choose to focus his time and energy on a basketball game.

Nader feels that the only way to restore credibility to the NBA would be for the Commissioner, David Stern, to investigate the officiating. He wrote Stern, "At a time when the public's confidence is shaken by headlines reporting the breach of trust of corporate executives, it is important, during the public's relaxation time, for there to be maintained a sense of impartiality and professionalism in commercial sports performance."

Stern might well have written back to Nader, "At a time when the public confidence in politics is at an all-time low, the best way to restore your credibility would be to explain how an alleged liberal who supposedly has no thought for his own ego would refuse to drop out of a Presidential election he couldn't possibly win, thereby helping elect someone whose conservative policies he's opposed all his life."

Politics aside, I had no idea Ralph was a sports fan. I always thought of him as an overly serious, humorless person. I guess I was wrong. I'm sure it's a lot of fun to watch a game at Ralph's house. It's probably something like this:

Ralph ushers his three friends, Tom, Dick, and Harry, into his modest apartment. We see the players warming up on his modest TV.

TOM: I'm going to order a pizza. Where's the phone?

RALPH: I don't have a phone. The telephone company is an odious monopoly that is worse today than it was before the alleged breakup. I'm really psyched about the game.

DICK: All right, I'll run down to the pizza place on the corner, and pick us up a large one.

RALPH: No, you won't. Fast food places have destroyed the fabric of America. I love b-ball.

HARRY: So, Ralph, who do you think will win tonight?

RALPH: Whoever Big Tobacco and the rest of corporate America wants to win. (TO THE TV) Let's spank them in their own crib!

TOM: Why would a basketball player making $20 million accept a bribe? It doesn't make any sense.

RALPH: Of course it doesn't. And that proves how our educational system has failed the youth of America. (TO THE TV) Let's see your A-Game, Shaq Daddy!

DICK: Hey, that's a pretty funny beer commercial.

RALPH: I wasn't watching. Those commercials degrade young women by forcing them to wear scanty outfits to sell poisonous, addictive substances to an unsuspecting public. "We will, we will rock you."

HARRY: Hey, Ralph, why are our chairs so far from the TV?

RALPH: I don't want to take any chance of getting radiation poisoning from the television. Is this fun, or what?

Ralph sits in his seat.

RALPH: I'm really glad you dudes came over tonight. Sometimes I get tired of being vigilant for the rest of the world, and I just need to let loose and have fun. BOO-YAH!

I hope that wasn't too loud. I know how harmful noise pollution can be.

TOM: The game is about to start.

RALPH: Great! Let's enjoy our relaxation time, dudes.

And then Ralph would get comfortable in his favorite easy chair, ready to watch the game just like any other healthy American fan.

Except, of course, he'd buckle his seat belt.

E-mail your questions and comments to Lloyd Garver

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver