“Damn it, damn it, damn it.”
This was me, cursing as I’m sure many Bruins fans were, upon hearing the news that Tim Thomas had snubbed Boston’s White House invite because of his particularly rightist political views.
Let me get one thing straight, though. What I was feeling, along with many other Boston supporters, wasn’t disappointment in learning that Thomas, last season’s playoff MVP, was a radical Tea Party supporter (Thomas has publicly declared his admiration of radio host Glenn Beck). No, I feel like I’ve long left this hang-up behind as an issue of the past; if the always terrific Kelsey Grammer can find comfort in the Republican party then surely not everyone can/should be written off strictly for their political leanings.
Your typical sports fan can overlook an astonishing number of peculiarities and quirks their home team may bear. Your team can be comprised of communists, birthers, alien abductees and mutations-created-by-human-science-gone-too-far, but as long as they win games it doesn’t really matter all that much.
What irked many people wasn’t the fact that Thomas snubbed the President, but the fact that in deciding to release a statement rather than attend the White House event he snubbed his teammates as well as the Bruins organization. It doesn’t look good, nor I’m sure does it feel good, to have your playoff MVP absent from an event that essentially exists solely to showcase the team’s achievement on a mainstream, international level.
For those unfamiliar with the whole ordeal, Thomas released the following statement on the date of the White House visit:
“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.”
Despite what Thomas’s intentions may have been, his actions detracted from the significance of the day for the teammates who did attend, and the controversy that followed overshadowed the event completely — essentially turning what was supposed to be a positive point in the season into a negative.
What Thomas didn’t understand about the White House visit is, despite the appearance, it’s actually a hockey event, not a political event. The players, the coaches, the staff, they are there representing the Bruins hockey team, their employer. To be certain, Thomas has every right to decline this silly event as an individual, but to do it in the matter he did creates a situation where one person is elevating themselves apart from the group.
A saving grace seems to lie in the fact that this kind of controversy is totally atypical of Thomas; it was either a rare misstep in an otherwise sterling career or an honest mistake.
Ultimately, I still believe Thomas is a good person and a good teammate. Despite my recent conflicting thoughts, I have always believed Thomas a great asset for Boston, a player easy to cheer for.
While many fans, myself included, were baffled by Thomas’ decision to leave his team behind as they met the Commander-in-Chief, it is at least comforting to recognize this as nothing more than a mistake, albeit a costly one. The only lingering question on the matter is whether Tim Thomas himself now views his choice of tactic as such; given the opportunity to do the whole thing over again, would the MVP net minder stay at home or would he join his teammates in the U.S. capital?