When political leaders honor sports stars are they really honoring themselves?
President Obama enjoyed a photo-op today with the Boston Red Sox serving as human props. The White Sox fan in the White House congratulated the Red Sox on their World Series victory. The team, enjoying an off-day after suffering an Opening Day loss to the Orioles, trekked to the White House from nearby Baltimore. The fan of the long-suffering squad on the South Side of Chicago joked that he didn’t recognize the clean-shaven players without their signature beards and told the visiting Red Sox of the upcoming season, “May the best Sox win.”
The president invoked the role of the Red Sox in rallying the region after the Boston Marathon bombing, indirectly referencing Big Papi’s “this is our f—ing city” speech following the attack. “I think for the nation as a whole there was something about this particular squad that was special and will go down in history–not just not just because they went from worst to first, but because they symbolized the grit and the resilience of America’s–one of America’s iconic cities during one of its most difficult moments,” the president observed.
The president complimented Jonny Gomes’ stars-and-stripes suit and posed for a selfie with David Ortiz. “This was never a single superstar’s team,” Obama noted. “If you look at the numbers, no pitcher won more than 15 games; no batter hit more than 30 home runs. And yet, they led the majors in runs scored, won the most games in the American League, [and] had the second-best ERA in their hard-hitting division. So this team never lost more than three games in a row all season. They just had a lot of heart.”
When the Boston Bruins visited the White House after their 2011 Stanley Cup victory over Vancouver, goalie Tim Thomas declined the invitation because of his beliefs that the president erodes the liberties of Americans. “I believe the Federal government has grown out of control, threatening the Rights, Liberties, and Property of the People,” Thomas reasoned. “This is being done at the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial level. This is in direct opposition to the Constitution and the Founding Fathers’ vision for the Federal government.”
No such no-shows characterized the Red Sox visit–at least this go-around. Shane Victorino, who presented the president with macadamia nuts at the 2009 all-star game, called in sick. But the rest of the team remaining from last year’s club, as well as two new players, attended the ceremony.
After the team’s 2007 World Series victory, then-general manager Theo Epstein, who campaigned for John Kerry in 2004, stayed home on political grounds when George Bush celebrated the team’s triumph. Manny Ramirez played hookey, too. “I’m sorry [Ortiz’s] running mate, Manny Ramirez, isn’t here,” President Bush joked. “I guess his grandmother died again. Just kidding. Tell Manny I didn’t mean it.” John Henry, the owner of the team, has donated more than $1 million to Democrats to just $1,000 to Republicans.