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The Tim Thomas Affair

January 23, 2012

Tim Thomas and the Bruins being honored at a Red Sox game last June (please note the presence of Terry Francona is not intended to be a sign of anything!)

Today the 2011 Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins were honored by President Barack Obama at the White House. It was a momentous occasion, even if seven months have lapsed since they hoisted the Cup, and four months since their tenure over the chalice formally and functionally ended. The day was an exciting one for the team, fans and the media. It’s practically a requirement that American sports organizations visit the White House after their victories (since when I am not sure)–and it’s especially sweet when your team has never had the shot (at least, I don’t believe the occasion took place in 1972, I could be incorrect).

Hopefully it won’t eclipse the event, but goalie Tim Thomas declined  to attend the celebration today. President Cam Neely let it slip that Thomas’s political beliefs are the reason for his absence. Apparently, Thomas is going to post a Facebook message elaborating on the decision later tonight. The fact Thomas has a Facebook page is news to a lot of people, myself included.

My initial reaction to the decision to stay away from the event, one the rest of the organization attended, was “Okay, fine. It is his prerogative and he has every right to abstain for political reasons.” I am left-leaning, and had a Bruin on a hypothetical 2004 Cup-winning team abstained, I must be honest with myself and realize I would have lauded his decision. In the Bush Era, with the invasion of Iraq, I would have understood the decision. But my second reaction is “Hey, this is a celebratory day, leave politics aside and allow a public acknowledgement of the victory to take place.” This is for the team, the city, it should not be political. In a relatively progressive state like Massachusetts, I have no doubt that is what many fans are thinking tonight. Thomas is conservative, a staunch Republican. I know I’d heard as much before and had little issue with it. The face-mask, the desire to be on Glenn Beck’s show. I respect him as an athlete, but also as a person, and thus I respect his decision to avoid what is a fun day. Part of me would like to see him leave politics aside, but I also know just how important they are, even if I have deep political and ideological differences with Thomas. It is his right.

The move is sure to raise eyebrows and cause a stir. I don’t want to remember the day for Tim Thomas, but for the team. Hopefully most fans will take it as such.

Declining the invitation is an expected sign in a polarizing political climate. The Conn Smythe Winner, Vezina Winner, and straight-shooter to victory for the Bs, saw the leverage he had, and took it. Nobody can be faulted for that. I still disagree with him, but he can’t be faulted.

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