Sunday, July 5, 2015

Tom Brady’s Not A Patriot

As published in The County Times (

By Ronald N. Guy Jr.

There is a long history between sports and the nation’s presidents.  In 1910, William Howard Taft threw out the first presidential “first pitch” on opening day of the baseball season.  Every U.S. president since, with the exception of Jimmy Carter, has followed in Taft’s enormous shadow.  And while it wasn’t opening day, the most consequential presidential fastball occurred when George W. Bush, just weeks after 9/11, threw a strike from the Yankee Stadium mound before Game 3 of the 2001 World Series.

Other sports share a White House connection too.  President Obama, who is a huge basketball fan, annually completes a March Madness bracket.  Football owes its very existence, in part, to Teddy Roosevelt.  As a proponent of physical athletic confrontation, Roosevelt advanced game-saving rule changes to curb an alarming number of on-field fatalities.  Gerald Ford was an All-American offensive lineman for Michigan in the 1930s.  And it was a common love of football that prompted an unimaginable private chat between Richard Nixon and raging liberal journalist (and Nixon hater) Hunter S. Thompson during the 1968 presidential campaign.     

Ronald Reagan gets the primary credit for the presidential tradition of hosting sports champions.  I have fond memories of The Gipper hitting Ricky Sanders on a crossing route on the White House lawn – literally - after the ‘Skins won Super Bowl XXII.  Four successors and three decades later, champions still visit 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue regularly.

But all is not well.  Athletes have occasionally left the president hanging.  Michael Jordan cited a schedule conflict in 1991 when he no-showed on George H. W. Bush.  In 1997, Packers TE Mark Chmura, a guy once charged with sexually assaulting a 17-year-old girl at a high school party (when he was in his 30s), passed on Green Bay’s visit with Bill Clinton because of his moral disgust with the president in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky scandal. 

No matter.  These were one-offs.  Anomalies.  There was no trend of athletes stiffing the highest office in our land – until recently. The White House snub is now commonplace.  Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison blew off Bush in 2006 and Obama in 2009.  Boston Bruins Goalie Tim Thomas bailed on Obama in 2012.  St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa and star Albert Pujols declined Obama’s invitation in 2012.  Baltimore Ravens center Matt Birk and three members of the undefeated 1972 Dolphins team – Jim Langer, Manny Fernandez and Bob Kuechenberg – cited political reasons for their White House absences last year.  At least they were honest, I suppose. 

Add New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady to the growing list of presidential rejecters.  Brady used the tired and lame “schedule conflicts” line to excuse himself from the Patriots’ recent visit with President Obama.  Sure Tom.  Non-specific scheduling conflicts and family obligations.  Got it.  Sounds similar to Brady’s insulting “the public is so dumb they’ll buy anything” bull he offered in response to “deflategate.”

The evidence is clear: it is now routine for self-absorbed athletes who get a White House invitation for playing a game – a game – to disrespect our nation’s highest office.  It is beyond their meager ability to bite their political tongues and participate in an apolitical, celebratory event.  Tom Brady might be a Patriot, but don’t mistake him or any of his fellow White House boycotters for patriots – my opinion. 

This overtly rude political behavior has coincided with debilitating partisanship – a sad situation created by both parties - in Washington.  What’s the cart and what’s the horse?  No matter.  It seems a Democratic or Republican label now trumps our common identity as Americans.  Discord is fundamental to a representative government, but for that discord to yield national benefit, active listening, mutual respect and an understanding that political gains are realized through commensurate political gives is required.  Otherwise, it’s just arguing for arguing’s sake.  In that case, why even bother to show up and attempt to govern?  In other words, why act differently from Tom Brady, et al.

Brady and his boycotters stiffed the White House to express some sort of political disgust and to promote change.  Ironically, they have the exact government they created…and deserve.     

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