This morning, Shannen Coffin criticized Kevin Dupont, a Boston Globe sports writer, for excoriating Tim Thomas, who skipped the White House Stanley Cup celebration yesterday. Dupont takes some unfair swipes, but that doesn’t make Thomas’s choice admirable, and I think Dupont has a fair point that, contra Shannen, Thomas deserves some criticism.
Thomas’s choice wasn’t unpatriotic, but it was, in some sense, immature and self-centered. Shannen argues that the event was, “like everything done for public consumption at the White House, a political event” — so one can’t blame Thomas for bringing his politics into it; he wasn’t changing the nature of it with his political grandstanding.
Categorically speaking, this may be true, but Thomas took a patriotic and effectively apolitical celebration focused on a sports team and made it into a noteworthy and intensely political event focused on his opinions. Celebrations of other Boston championships (hard to recount them all, of course) have proceeded unremarkably — Theo Epstein apparently declined to attend either of the World Series’ events, but even John Kerry, Chris Dodd, Ted Kennedy, and Democratic Boston mayor Tom Menino, in addition to countless liberal athletes (and John Henry), attended during the Bush years. The intersection of politics and sports can be slippery, and sports writers do often operate from a laughably liberal set of assumptions. But the president honoring national champions seems about as clear an example of his non-partisan, patriotic duties as possible.
The Left absurdly points to ways in which the Right has criticized or opposed President Obama in unprecedented or inappropriate ways, as if it bespeaks some basic ignorance or vile prejudice. Of course it doesn’t — politics are politics, and liberals were, in many ways, no better about restraining their hysterics under Bush than conservatives have been under Obama. Thomas had every right to do what he did, and the Left does it all the time, but that doesn’t make it a praiseworthy or noble stand. We hardly need to inject more political rancor into a country already beset with it, and conservatives might want to hold themselves above this kind of cheap shot.
Hockey is a sport of honor, where game-ending handshakes have always been tradition, and unwritten rules govern fair fighting. Tim Thomas should have applied the same principles to politics that he does to hockey, and recognized this wasn’t the place to pick a fight. I’m sure Thomas feels like a lonely conservative in liberal Boston’s penalty box, but on the proper role of athletes in politics, he could have taken a hint from Curt Schilling, who worked diligently for Bush’s reelection campaign, and played no small role in Scott Brown’s 2010 Senate victory.