In a tradition that undoubtedly dates back to long before I was alive to dislike sports, Stanley Cup-winning hockey team the Boston Bruins visited the White House where Obama probably said something about team work or sportsmanship or goals. (You can see what Obama actually said here, if you feel a strange urge to do so.) Missing in action was Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, who released some tantalizingly libertarian-sounding reasons for not wanting to attend.
Thomas' statement, from his facebook page, in full:
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.
If Thomas actually meant that that was the end of it, it's both commendably to the point (he didn't go, he said why in a fairly respectful fashion) and frustratingly brief. Is he a libertarian? A Tea Partier, as his helmet to the right suggests? (The front has "in God we trust" and an eagle, so perhaps it is the latter.)
And really, is this a big deal? Media response seem to be suggesting that this is unsportsmanlike. Though it's happened before in sports, the general notion seems to be that Thomas should have sucked it up and been part of the team and went to the White House. Some, like Death and Taxes Mag, criticized Thomas' politics. Thomas' teammates and the General Manager of the Bruins both sound pretty respectful in their disagreement over Thomas's decision.
But there are also the unsurprising cries that Thomas is the one who made this political in the first place.
Says The Boston Globe:
[Y]esterday was not about politics and government until Thomas made it about politics and government. The day, long set on the calendar, was a day when the Boston Bruins were asked to visit Pennsylvania Avenue to celebrate what they did as a team last season. It was their day in the national spotlight, until Thomas didn't show, and then the focal point became, much the way it would be in a hockey game, on the guy who was no longer standing in goal.
Shabby. Immature. Unprofessional. Self-centered. Bush league. Need I go on?…Thomas needed to be there in solidarity, and celebration, with his team. It was the same government yesterday, and will be today, that protected his country, his security, his family, and his right to make $5 million a year, all last season.
This strikes me as a bit unfair. Since the Bruins won, we can assume that Thomas did a good job as goalie. If this were really about keeping sports about sports, the Bruins wouldn't be anywhere near the White House in the first place. If politicians are going to be politicians, if "The Cult of the Presidency" is going to continue, platitudes, standing ovations, and secret kill lists and all, then maybe politicians had better understand that whatever they do is political. That's the price you pay for that much power, and it's a pretty damn small one.
Reason on sports, and Matt Welch's "The Banal Authoritarian of Do-Something Punditry", since we're talking about people who enjoy pretending that things aren't political.
(Hat tip to James Groth)