Hockey has this tradition of tapping sticks on the ice or against wood in moments of admiration — after a fight, during a pregame ceremony for a retiring legend or once, in my case, on my way into the locker room after I recently had become engaged. It is more raucous than clapping and therefore way more hockey. It says "I see you and appreciate what that took," or in my case "about time."
And upon first hearing that Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas had unleashed a little of his First Amendment rights, I tapped my stick for him.
Good for him, I thought.
Sports need more principled athletes.
Wait, he expressed himself how?
Yeah, Thomas lost me when he bailed on the Bruins’ congratulatory trip to the White House — and his chance to say his piece in person — and instead posted on Facebook.
We have become a society that has confused a status update with a stand. And we wonder why nothing changes.
Athletes used to take risks for things that mattered. Black-power fists shoved into the Mexico City night sky and Bill Russell’s willingness to march on Washington with Martin Luther King Jr. Nor was it only athletes doing so. Rosa Parks sat down. The unknown man stood tall at Tiananmen Square. Countless Tea Party-ers refused to go away.
So I’m sorry if I do not buy Thomas’ status update as a principled stand. Yet it is pretty standard nowadays.
Internet balls are the new tequila balls. Everybody has a pair.
What do you do if you are a 49ers fan or a random gambler distraught over two muffed punts by Kyle Williams? Tweet him a death threat, of course. Or if you dislike a column? Log on under a fake name and drop all sorts of racist, sexist idiocy.
Does anybody think Death Threat Guy would say this to Williams’ face? Of course not.
This is not another rant about the death of civility, which has been harped on a lot lately, what with Republican debates turning into a celebrity death match and that governor from Arizona wagging a finger in the face of the president of the United States.
This is more about the death of principled stands, of disagreeing respectfully and believing so much in your cause that you are willing to be a little uncomfortable standing up for it.
This is the chance Thomas had, and what he failed so miserably at by not going to the White House with his team.
Full disclosure: I am a political junkie. The debates are like crack for me. My favorite parts of sports are where they intersect with life, politics, the human experience and teach us something about ourselves.
Tim Thomas had a point — a good point actually.
I tend to agree with him when he says "the federal government has grown out of control, threatening the rights, liberties and property of the people."
What he also had, that I do not and most do not, was a chance for an audience with the president. I know, I know, somebody is going to say this was not the time. I disagree.
I do not know President Obama, but he seems like a good dude. He stood there while that governor of Arizona wagged a finger in his face. And whatever shade you are on the red-blue spectrum, can we all not agree that that kind of behavior is unacceptable? So I am guessing he is the kind of guy you could go up to and say, "Hey, I love America, but I’m kind of annoyed how this thing is going. I’d love to see you . . . "
Whatever your problem is — sports, political or otherwise — I guarantee it is unlikely to be solved with a Tweet or a Facebook post. The only way to solve anything is dig in, take a stand — and that almost always requires a little bit of courage. It requires believing in what you are saying so much that you are willing to say it to another face.
It is just complaining otherwise. And there is a long line of people doing that right now, a line that Thomas joined.
He was entitled to his opinion.
The Constitution allows, if not encourages, him to respectfully disagree and to voice his dissent.
What was disappointing about Thomas was that he did not do so in person. There is no valor in that, and no stick tap.