Out of the Blue

Through the years Massachusetts has achieved warranted fame for her blue noses and laws to match. Vaudevillians could always count on the foibles of the Watch and Ward Society for a few derisive laughs, and Boston prudery was as much a part of folklore as Western rawness and Southern comforts. Times, whether for good or ill, have changed; a visitor to the city can prowl most of Boston before he runs across much restriction or even restraint. But though the nineteenth-century veneer of its citizenry is no more, the Commonwealth clings to laws of Victorian vintage.

Every now and then one of these blue laws rears up, managing always to curtail the most wholesome of activities. Saturday night's tied-score hockey game was the latest victim of the antique ruling.s When the clock had struck twelve, the Cinderella law hustled both teams out of the arena, presumably wary of the myth that coaches turn back into pumpkins. In this way, the hours from Saturday midnight to Sunday noon are kept free from all vice, including overtime in sports events.

On the sly, exceptions have been made: players in a late baseball game can usually finish up an inning--not, of course, the whole game. But the referees indecision about overtime legality Saturday night shows that the rules are far from uniform. State legislators would do well to amend the law at least, making it possible to conclude those events which happen to spill over into the early minutes of Sunday morning.

There is a certain engaging naivete about the laws since people will drink and dance at private parties even though bars and ballrooms are snapped closed at 12:01 a.m. But in sports, unfortunately, players cannot adjourn to someone's room for a last inning or goal. The blue laws were composed with a warped view of human nature; they now fit the times no better.