Monday, January 23, 2012

On Tim Thomas and Irresponsible Journalism.

A lot happened in the NHL today. As usual in times when a lot happens in the NHL, a lot happened outside of the NHL to go along with it. I'm pretty annoyed by most of it, mad at some of it, and I'm going to take out my frustrations here. This will not be a humorous post.

In the morning, it was reported that Tim Thomas, the goaltender of the Boston Bruins, would not be attending the team's trip to the White House, one of the "perks" that comes from winning the Stanley Cup. Thomas, winner of last year's Vezina and Conn Smythe trophies, was the only member of the team who declined the visit.

Immediately, Twitter exploded with writers trying to grab up the story, and rightfully so. Nothing important to the on-ice aspect of the game would really happen until Brendan Shanahan dropped the Shanahammer on Alexander Ovechkin later in the day. Most of these writers simply covered what happened in a respectful way, as was expected of them as hockey reporters. Others, seeing the opportunity for attention, began spinning the story as they felt necessary.

Mostly, those who felt it was necessary to spin the story presumed that Thomas was a close-minded neolithic Republican, making a statement that he did not care for Democrats. To them, he was going to stick it to the arch-liberal, Barack Obama.

In the eyes of many, being a Republican makes you an idiot, incapable of rational thought. One of the things that bothers me most is the people who stereotype either side of the political system, as there are some people who strongly identify with the Republican party and aren't all about blowing up the middle east, just as there are Democrats who aren't in favor of complete socialism. To slander either side as being made up of entirely polar beings, without any consideration of moderate, rational thinking individuals is part of the problem. It's mudslinging, and it solves nothing.

Perhaps that is a statement that may ruffle some feathers. If you take issue, there are two things you can do. Drop me a message somewhere, since everyone knows how to find me, or fill out one of these:

Click on it, actually. It's pretty funny.

Regardless of where you stand, the fact is this: many reporters took it as an opportunity to dissect Thomas's character, and make terrible statements about him as an individual. It was uncalled for. In the end, due to the pressure, Thomas released a statement to explain his decision. In his statement, taken from, Thomas expressed discontentment in the way the government operates, stating that they, in all three branches, threaten the rights of the people. 

Thomas continued by stating that this was not a politically motivated decision, but rather his right as a citizen to refuse the company of those whom he felt were directly responsible for the mishandling of the nation's global and domestic affairs. This was not a Democrat vs Republican issue. This was Thomas saying he didn't feel like faking a smile and shaking hands with the President.

In my opinion, Thomas, a known Tea Party supporter, would have perhaps been better off from a PR standpoint by issuing a statement that said something to the effect of "I am a hockey player. I want to keep hockey on the ice, and stay away from politics, as is my right". Instead, he had the forum to say what he wanted to about the state of the government, and actually, I believe it was the more honorable and honest decision. I happen to agree with what he said. 

I'm sure people like Ryan Lambert and Dave Hodge would have something to say about me, too, just like they did about Thomas.

Ryan Lambert is a columnist at's hockey blog, Puck Daddy. Every week, he writes a column in which he cracks jokes about each team, looking for a reaction from that team's fanbase. I can see the idea behind it: Lambert is a troll, and he gets hits for the website by annoying people. Greg Wyshinski, the editor of PD, a man I respect for his approach to hockey journalism, could fill Lambert's spot with a talented writer, who brings an intelligent and insightful mind for the game. Instead, he fills it with a glorified troll.

Normally, I can tolerate Lambert, as I can tell he is just looking for a reaction. In fact, sometimes it's just funny. Today, though, he took the opportunity to get on his soapbox and spend the entire day ranting about Thomas and fighting on Twitter with people about their political affiliation. This is typical for Lambert, but at what point are you simply an idiot with a forum, instead of a journalist? I think he has found that point. Let me explain.

Lambert spent the entire day talking about Tim Thomas and his off-ice decision. Meanwhile, around 7 o'clock, it was announced that Washington's Alexander Ovechkin, one of the most visible stars of the league, regardless of his lack of offensive production this season, would be sitting three games for his hit on Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek. Lambert ignored this major on-ice development in order to spend the evening chirping fans on Twitter.

My issue with him is not that he's a bad person. He's simply a moron who let his personal desire to annoy others get in the way of his responsibility as a journalist to report NHL news. 

He's like an ant, really. Annoying, but easily flicked away. In the end, my issue is not with him, as he simply did what he does, and what he gets paid to do. My real issue is about someone else.

It's about to get mean. I'm pissed off.

When the media firestorm was at its apex, regarding Thomas, every idiot seemed to be getting in on the action. Again, respectable writers stayed out of it, not wishing to demonize a man whose play has been outstanding, and whose character off ice has never been any less than respectful and unusually polite for an athlete of his pedigree. 

The biggest idiot of all, was TSN's Dave Hodge. Hodge, seeing the opportunity to crawl out of his cesspool of obscurity, decided to make a statement about Thomas. This statement was undeniably an attempt to link Thomas's Republican history with the stereotype that hardcore conservative Republicans are racists by nature. Via Twitter:
You can fight this all you want. You can spin it any way you want. I don't buy it. The fact remains, Thomas's family had not been brought up by anyone else, so this was not a mere observation of Tim Thomas's children's names, nor was it a continuation of a topic brought up by someone else.

This is an attempt by Hodge to label Tim Thomas a racist by pointing out that together, the first initials of his children's names spell out "KKK". 

You can hold whatever political prejudices you wish. Thought is not a crime, and cannot really be helped. You simply feel the way you do. However, when you go out of your way to take one's political affiliation, and then make a thinly veiled attempt to label him a racist because of it, you have gone too far. Not just this, but he did it by bringing up Thomas's children.

I have sent several tweets to Hodge, asking him to explain his message, and to perhaps show me that I'm over-analyzing it. He still has yet to explain himself. Perhaps as a TSN analyst, he is too big-time to respond to some plain kid such as myself. The fact remains that I think he is a despicable person for going out of his way to label Tim Thomas as a racist, based on the names of the latter's children. This is not what a journalist with integrity does. This is a classless move, by a classless individual.

What do you think? Am I looking too much into what Hodge said, or do you think I'm right, and that it is quite likely he meant to label Tim Thomas as being in favor of the KKK?

I say lots of bad things, I swear a lot, and I piss people off frequently. I mean well, but I sometimes don't think before I make a joke about something. I also believe that you can joke about almost anything, with a few glaring and obvious exceptions. As such, I'm nearly impossible to offend. Hodge's words were offensive to me, because not only did he cross a professional line, but he took a running start and leaped over a human line. You simply do not say things like that about another person.

What do I know, though? I'm just a kid with a blog. In the morning, Hodge will still have a job, and I'll still be hoping for 30 views on a post. At least I will have my dignity and be writing what I want for the amusement of myself and others, while he will fade back into obscurity, at a company filled with incredibly gifted reporters, whose names are more recognizable to the average fan than Hodge's name is to his own mother.

Sorry this was a long one. Thank you very much for reading it, if you've made it this far.