Well, it finally happened. The Pittsburgh Penguins visited the White House and took pictures with President Trump.
My question for the champions: How do you feel about it now?
The team captain Sidney Crosby was at pains to reassure the press and public that this had nothing to do with politics. “It’s a shame people want to portray it that that way,” he said a few days earlier.
Well, sorry Cros, but your visit does make a political statement, whether you want it to or not. It says: It is an honor to have the regard of the President.
And is that really such an honor?
Without expending too much effort, I can think of a long list of hands it should make you much more proud to shake, and it would include the hands of just about every kid in America who wears your team jersey.
You know, those people who love you and support you and ultimately pay your paycheck?
Compared to that, what exactly did the President do to make the handshake list? Did he even know the name of your team captain before someone put it on his lectern this morning?
If you say: “It’s a tradition,” well, as this article pointed out, it’s really only been a thing since 1991. I have underwear that’s more of a tradition than that.
If you say: “the honor is in being recognized by your country,” well, we already have an honor for that: the awarding of the Stanley Cup, having your name engraved on it, the paycheck that comes with it, the press coverage, the bevy of parades and accolades bestowed upon you for the following year, the banner raised in your home rink, and the honor of being distinguished as a winner for the rest of your life and beyond.
The fans adore you. The sports press can’t stop talking about you. Kids emulate you. Your teammates and colleagues admire you (or at least grudgingly respect you).
Really, compared to that, is anything added to your honor by also posing for some pics with some elected office holders?
Our elected officials are not “the country”. That would be us, the people all around you who buy tickets to your games, who watch and cheer for you on TV, who feel your joys and sorrows as keenly as if they were their own.
Elected officials don’t even really represent most of the country, a fact that has become (I hope) more glaringly evident to the voting public than ever before. Elected officials are just people– and not even really good examples of people, at that. All that business about them being special beings, bestowed with special gifts, and it therefore being a special honor to shake their hands is a holdover from when we content to be ruled by kings and emperors and chieftains.
Presumably, we did away with all that nonsense when we made a republic.
If the White House invites you to come hang out with them for an afternoon and take pictures, maybe your official team response should be a polite refusal along the lines of: “Sorry, but… don’t you people have more important things to focus on?”
Champions, you have already been awarded the highest honor in hockey. There is nothing added to your honor (and some believe, quite a bit subtracted) by shaking the hand of the current Oval villain du jour.
Hockey is a great game and the public loves it, regardless of their politics.
If, as you say, you want to “keep politics out of it” then here’s an idea: what do you say we start by keeping the White House out of it?