The Decider took time out of his busy schedule Friday to fete the defending Stanley Cup champion Carolina Hurricanes. Not surprisingly, I loathe this obnoxious tradition:
1. The "honor" of being invited to the White House is just another demand to pay tribute to the Maximum Leader. EVERY TEAM awards the president with a personalized team jersey. It's a nice token but isn't the point of these things to have the president be the one doing the honoring? That teams feel obligated to lavish gifts upon the president makes him seem less presidential and more, I dunno...monarchical? Dictatorial?
2. It's sickening to watch opportunistic politicians bask in the reflected glow of people who have actually achieved something. Especially since sports and politics operate on ethics that are diametric opposites. Athletic competition is the purest realization of American ideals, the ultimate meritocracy -- talent, hard work, and teamwork in pursuit of a common goal are the hallmarks of success. But politics require none of these virtues. Instead, a politician need only convince a majority of the gullible masses that he's the less knavish of two dreadful choices. After that, it's mostly logrolling, Influence peddling, and demagoguery -- not very heroic or inspiring. Small wonder politicians leech onto successful athletes as though the association implies the same qualities for each.
3. The whole display is phony and so much appalling theatre. It is 99.9% probable that Bush watched zero Stanley Cup playoff games and couldn't identify a single Hurricanes player without help from his handlers. So the ceremony is about Bush waxing philosophic, lecturing on virtues he does not himself possess, and making a few disingenuously self-deprecating jokes. While commenting on Carolina's underdog status, he actually said, "I like to be around people who keep expectations low." Right. That's why his reputation behind the scenes as arrogant, bullying, megalomaniacal, and narcissistic is just a misunderstanding, right? Meanwhile, visiting players must be on their best behavior -- listen politely, smile and laugh at the appropriate times, and maintain a comfortably neutral facade. How awful and undignified this encounter must be for any athlete with a conscience!
Enough already. We need separation of sport and state, now!
p.s. This take on the meeting is pretty funny.