Politics and Hockey
Tim Thomas wasn't the first and he won't be the last.
Remember NFLer Mark Chmura declining to visit the White House in '97 because of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal? Steelers linebacker James Harrison skipped the White House twice, the second time because he "didn't feel like it's that big a deal."
So it's not a cultural catastrophe that Thomas, the Boston goaltender, snubbed President Barack Obama on Monday while his Bruins teammates journeyed to Washington.
And of course, he shouldn't have been forced to go, nor should the Bruins suspend him for deciding his personal political beliefs superseded being part of his team on that day, nor should this impact in any meaningful way his status as a starter in the NHL all-star game this weekend.
The only salient point, really, is this; Thomas' decision, while presented as somehow moral or above politics, was simply political in nature. That's okay, too. He's entitled to that view in a democracy. But to present this as somehow a decision borne of a conscience is misleading.
For the NHL, it's a visit from the polarized and fractured U.S. political spectrum, a world in which some - including Tea Party Tim - believe only they are representing political and governmental values that truly reflect the essence of the U.S. Constitution and the founding fathers.
Everyone else is wrong. Every other political belief is wrong.
So Thomas, a disciple of the odious Glenn Beck, decided he shouldn't go to the White House because Obama, and he suggests, the Republicans have made government too big and are endangering the life, liberty and freedom of ordinary Americans.
Which, like it or not, is a fair stand to take.
Problem is, the visit to the White House isn't a political moment. It's a moment for citizenship. The President, elected by the people and for the people, represents the people when he honours sports teams. Presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, have been doing it for a while now.
So Thomas, while a reasonably thoughtful athlete and quite likely well-meaning in his intent, simply got a little mixed up. He thought he was snubbing Obama, specifically, and the federal government, in general, but what he was really doing was snubbing the very Constitution he and his ilk insist only they understand and interpret correctly. Every NHL game in the U.S., these days, honors American soldiers, who are fighting overseas ostensibly to protect the Constitution and the country. If Thomas, who didn't mind playing for the U.S. Olympic team, were to be consistent, he'd have to snub them, as well. But he won't, nor should he.
Again, this is the U.S. political landscape these days, fraught with extremism with little room for dialogue and compromise. Thomas just got caught up in it and made himself the story instead of his team on Monday.
Plus he missed a chance to demand to see Obama's birth certificate. You didn't think they'd given that one up yet, did you?