Good Lord. I thought I’d just be able to relax and enjoy watching a fun livestream of the Bruins’ White House visit. (The Bruins texting me a link to the livestream just before it happened was nice because it allowed me to know when it was coming! I didn’t have to waste time shuffling around waiting for it.) The visit itself was really fun–it was good to see Mark Recchi standing with Patrice Bergeron again, President Obama made some funny jokes (calling Brad Marchand “a little ball of hate”! Asking how much they drank in celebration!), everyone looked very nice in their suits and a good time was had by all.
Um, all except one.
I didn’t notice this at the time but then friends started texting me noticing the lack of Tim Thomas. I was worried he’d been injured or something–hey, after yesterday’s intense game, anything’s possible–and nervously awaited further news. Then the story began to unravel: he wasn’t there for a personal reason. I was really genuinely worried there was an emergency with his family or something. It unraveled further: he wasn’t there for the personal reason of a political difference with the president.
Seriously. Okay, personal aside: even though I live in the deep red South, I identify as a Democrat and support President Obama. However, let’s just say this happened in another universe where George Bush was president and someone on the team decided to skip out on an official recognition event like this due to disagreeing with the president. I would still find it completely disrespectful. This is basically a photo op and a little pat-on-the-back meant for the enjoyment of the entire team and its fanbase. Some of the event was based on recognizing the charitable work of the Boston Bruins Foundation. It was not a political rally and appearing at it is not a tacit endorsement of support for Obama or intent to vote for him this year. Heck, aside from Joe Corvo (who wasn’t on the team during the Cup run) and Steven Kampfer, there are no other Americans on the team, so that would’ve been the most ineffective political rally anyway.
What Thomas did turned this event from something happy and fun to something happy and fun with a jagged, ugly edge. Now I look at the photos of all the happy Bruins behind Obama, taking in his goofy jokes, and all I can think of is “And Tim wouldn’t even come deal with this for just an hour of his life for the benefit of the people he works with and the people who love the team.” Now there are literally people who know nothing about the team except that there’s a Tea Party guy on it, especially people who are keyed into the political circles I still run around in, and it is embarrassing.
Here’s how he could’ve handled it if he really, really wanted everyone to know how he feels about politics, which he does indeed have the right to do. I’m not denying him that. Athletes are people too. He could’ve gone to the event, again for the benefit of the team, smiled for the cameras and then after that, he could go back to the hotel and type out a statement similar to the one he released. However, it could’ve said something like “While I disagree politically with the president–insert explanations of his views here–it was an honor to be recognized with my team.” That’s all. That’s all he had to do. If he had done that instead of skipping the event, I bet this would be less of a story. It would still be a story, but not one as widespread as it is now, if that makes any sense.
I have to admit, I feel let down by all of this. I am still going to hope Thomas does well and stops all the pucks and is good for the Bruins at his job. However, it is perfectly alright to feel disappointed in the people you look up to when they do something you personally feel is not acceptable but doesn’t have anything directly to do with their job. I’ve had to learn many times in recent years that our heroes are imperfect people just like us who sometimes make mistakes, do the wrong thing, disappoint and break hearts. It never stops being a crappy thing to have to learn, but it does happen.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go exercise my right as a free citizen to look at photos of happy Bruins.
PS: He really didn’t want to at least look around the White House and take in its immense history, being that he studied history in college and loves playing in a historically important city like Boston? Seriously?
PPS: All of this has overshadowed the truly worrying news that Nathan Horton has suffered a concussion. Today is not a super great day in Bruins Nation.