Sport and politics

It is often said that sport and politics shouldn’t mix.  That is an ideal that is rarely, if ever achieved.  Orwell famously said that “sport is war without the shooting”.

As most people who know me know, I am a huge fan of ice hockey and of the Boston Bruins in particular.  Last season, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup, the biggest prize in the game for the first time in my lifetime.  They won based on many factors, balanced scoring, playing on the line between hard and dirty, taking their chances and one of the most astonishing performances in goal by Tim Thomas seen for many a year.  The man was just unbeatable and set record after record on his way to the Conn Smythe Trophy, the individual award for Most Valuable Player in the playoffs.

One of the traditions of the game is that the Stanley Cup winners go to the White House with the Cup and have their photo taken with the incumbent President.  This is usually scheduled for when the winning team is in Washington to play the local team, the Capitals.  It is a photo op for both sides, a formality.

Yesterday, the Bruins went to the White House for the formality.  They went minus Tim Thomas.  Thomas released a statement giving his reasons for not attending.

“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People.

This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers vision for the Federal government.

Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House. This was not about politics or party, as in my opinion both parties are responsible for the situation we are in as a country. This was about a choice I had to make as an INDIVIDUAL.

This is the only public statement I will be making on this topic. TT”

So what started as a formality has become a bit of a flap.  There are two sides to the argument, Thomas is free to say what he wants and do what he wants.  The other is that he should have sucked it up and smiled for the camera.

The latter is the preferred option of most people.  Yesterday was merely a photo opportunity on both sides.  The Bruins team will consist of Republicans and Democrats as well as Canadiens, Slovaks, Swedes and Finns who have no horse in the race.  The President, like many before him, probably knows little about hockey.  The idea is the President looks good, the NHL looks good, the team look good.  Sport and politics mixed, but only in a superficial way.

Thomas didn’t have to go – some players have cried off citing personal reasons.  Fine.  But by releasing his statement, sport and politics were mixed – and they were mixed by Tim Thomas.  So if you want to get into the politics, Timmy, then so be it.

So, Tim, you think the Government has suddenly grown too large since 2008?  What about beforehand – why now?  You support the Constitution and the Founding Fathers.  If the document is so binding, why does everyone keep ignoring those awkward bits about slavery?  How do you feel faced with the option of possibly voting for a Republican candidate who declared, just two days ago, that is so devoted to the Constitution that he will ignore the bits that don’t agree with him. Who are you on the side of, Tim, the aforementioned hypocrite, the tax dodger, the religious freak or the racist?

Oh, and for those who think Thomas is a hero for doing this are largely the same people who told the Dixie Chicks to “shut up and play” and organised events where their CDs were crushed by bulldozers for… saying they disagreed with the President.  Thankfully Thomas won’t be receiving death threats for expressing his opinion or have people turning up to games openly displaying guns or anything.

As for “this is the only public statement I will be making on this topic” is shutting down debate in a completely cowardly manner.  He lit the fire and is running away.  Like I said, he is the one who made it political. At least have the balls to stand up and defend your position – he does that plenty on the ice.  This is probably the first fight in his life that Thomas has started but never finished.

I’ve never made the mistake of elevating an athlete to a role model (they never ask to be put in that position and being able to score a goal, kick a ball or stop a puck doesn’t automatically make them one).  I’ll continue to cheer for him when he wears the Black and Gold – I don’t sit there and go “What a save! Despite being, you know, having views I disagree with”.  But I can’t help but be disappointed – because he has made himself look like a stupid, petty man and Tim Thomas is not a stupid, petty man.

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