I have always felt The World of Sports should be an escape from the Real World. A place where you can go between the lines, block out the harsher realities of life and get wrapped up in something totally different and unrelated. An inconsequential reality of sorts.
Every now and then, however, worlds collide and a story all too real infiltrates the World of Sports. Try as we might to ignore these stories, not give them credence or let them infiltrate the perfect little bubble that is Sports, they often become unavoidable. Tonight is one of those nights. Even though the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals were on the ice battling to a 5-3 Washington win to close out the pre-All-Star break portion of their schedules, the biggest story surrounding the Boston Bruins had nothing to do with what went on at the Verizon Center and was about a man who did not even play in the game.
On the day before their match-up with the Capitals, the Bruins were at the White House, taking up the President on his invitation to celebrate their 2011 Stanley Cup Championship. Current and former Bruins from last year’s roster no longer with the team and members of the front office were in attendance, but one mustachioed Bruin was unmistakably missing from the event.
In a move that has caused a great deal of controversy over the past 36 hours, Bruins star goaltender Tim Thomas, the hero of that championship run, in which he became just the second American to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, and one of just two Americans on the Bruins roster, chose not to attend the event sighting a difference in political views.
“I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” proclaimed Thomas in a statement the netminder released on his Facebook page.
“Because I believe this, today I exercised my right as a Free Citizen, and did not visit the White House.”
Thomas’ politically-charged absence has left no one, regardless of whether or not they are a Bruins fan, hockey fan or even a sports fan, without an opinion and anyone with the forum to discuss seems to be doing so, something that may very well have been a factor in Thomas’ decision.
I suppose that means it’s my turn and, in my humble opinion, Thomas was wrong.
I certainly will not besmirch the Bruins netminder or anyone for their convictions and for standing up for them, regardless of how they align with mine. (Though, I happen to agree on some levels with Thomas’ beliefs.) For me, it was never about judging a person for what they believe in, but that they believe in something and that they stand by those beliefs, which is exactly what Thomas was doing and, to a degree, he should be applauded for standing up for what he believes in. One of the things that make this country great is that we have the ability to believe in what we chose and the ability to freely express those beliefs. That, however, is also why Thomas should not have chosen Monday to be the moment to make his political protest.
It is simple respect. Respect for the office of the President of the United States of America and it is surprising to see such a lack of respect from someone who claims to be as patriotic as Thomas.
We are granted a great deal of civil liberties as citizens of the United States, something for which every American should be more than grateful. It is because of that, regardless of how we feel about the President or government or the direction in which the country is going, Americans should embrace and respect this country and some of its hallowed symbols. Two of those symbols are the flag and the eagle, two things Tim Thomas proudly symbolizes on his helmet. A third is the office of the President. It is because of that office that we as Americans can get all pissed off and then blog about it.
Write speeches. Spew propaganda. Start a petition. Go to rallies. Get on the campaign trail. Lobby in favor of policy changes. Walk around in a t-shirt that proclaims your political affiliations and beliefs. Shy of breaking laws and crossing moral lines, do what you have to do to get your point across and try to get the changes you believe in made. As an American, however, especially one who embodies the American Dream as much as Thomas does, if the President of the United States extends the olive branch and invites you over for dinner to celebrate your accomplishments, regardless of your feelings about the person and their policy, it is probably a good idea to take them up on their offer.
I do not think Thomas is gutless or a coward for doing what he did, nor do I think he is evil as some pundits have insinuated based on his absence and the fact that the names of Thomas’ three children are Kiley, Kelsey and Keegan. I do, however, think Thomas made a mistake in how he decided to express his beliefs. Monday’s visit to the White House should not have been about anything other than celebrating the accomplishments of the Boston Bruins, accomplishments that were as much Thomas’ as anyone else in the organization, maybe even more so. Any member of that team looking to take away from that should rightly be criticized.
Tim Thomas’ convictions and strength to want to take a stand for what he believes should be supported. How he decided to express them on Monday probably should not. And just how the visit to the White House was all about celebrating the Bruins accomplishments, next time he steps on the ice, Tim Thomas should not be booed for his mistake, be cheered for what he has done for the Bruins between the pipes.
All of this, however, is just what I believe in.
About the Author
Written by Matt Preston
I'm no Heminway or Haggerty, but keeping the dream alive, even if I'm pretty sure my Nana is my only follower. Self-deprecation is key, grammar is optional.