Political goals, touchdowns, and dunks

This week hundreds of reporters from around the country will try to get Tom Brady, Eli Manning, or any number of their teammates to say something beyond the canned observations about how tough their game will be. And if they do, especially if it’s an even innocuous political observation, at least half the fan base will be up in arms.

You see, we want our athletes to be three-dimensional — that is until they say something we don’t agree with. Tim Thomas, the Boston Bruins goalie who moved from the net to right wing with his Facebook statement on why he didn’t attend the White House ceremony honoring the team, is the most recent example. But he’s not the only one.

Former Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling and his bombastic support for all causes and politicians conservative, Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, who made an anti-abortion commercial with his mom that played during the Super Bowl a few years back, and former Celtic Rasheed Wallace, who as a member of the 2005 Detroit Pistons was spitting nails when his team visited the White House with George Bush as its occupant, are just a few examples of athletes who stand up and speak and then catch flack from the opposing view.

Many, especially veterans, have still not forgiven Muhammad Ali for his refusal to be drafted during the Vietnam War (“I ain’t got no quarrel with the Viet Cong,” he said. “No Viet Cong ever called me a nigger.”) And while some may have forgotten it, the great Bill Russell and a number of the black players on those championship Celtics teams in the ‘60s were vilified for their  support of Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

But politics and sports mix much more than we acknowledge. Politicians are always seeking to stand side-by-side with iconic athletes (see Hillary Rodham Clinton and Doug Flutie). Celtics co-owner Steve Pagliuca was a Democratic candidate for the Senate seat now held by Sen. Scott Brown and organized a fundraiser for President Obama at the Museum of Fine Arts and brought along most of the team, including superstars Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen, all huge supporters of the president. And lest anyone forget, Jackie Robinson was as loud a political statement as has ever been made in the sporting arena.

The Red Sox braintrust is noted for its liberal leanings. President and CEO Larry Lucchino got his start as a lawyer on the Watergate committee, working with Hillary Rodham and William Weld. And when Bush invited the 2004 and 2007 teams to the White House, then-general manager Theo Epstein did not attend. Though he issued no statement, many insiders said it was politically driven.

Thomas’s statement may have caught many casual or non-fans off guard, but his political leanings were no state secret. On his goalie mask is the motto “Don’t Tread On Me” from the Gadsden flag favored by the Tea Party and he donated $2,000 to the Koch brothers’ Freedom Works PAC in 2010. In the Bruins’ media guide, Thomas says Glenn Beck is the person he’d most like to meet.

There’s no end of danger in taking such positions. Former Boston College tight end Mark Chmura, a member of the 1996 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, refused to go to the White House because of President Clinton’s issues with Monica Lewinsky. A few years later, Chmura faced charges of child endangerment for having sex with a teenage girl.

Athletes generally cannot win. We excoriate them for mouthing pabulum. We question their right, not to mention their intelligence, to express their opinions when they deviate from the script. But perhaps the best warning for athletes who may want to air out their thoughts comes from all-time basketball and business great and North Carolina native Michael Jordan, who was being urged to endorse Harvey Gantt, a black challenging Sen. Jesse Helms in his home state.

“Republicans buy sneakers, too,” Jordan said.

                                                                                                                                                                        –JACK SULLIVAN

BEACON HILL

Gov. Deval Patrick proposed a $32.3 billion state budget that includes cuts in subsidized lunches for seniors, a tax on soda and candy, closing the state prison in Norfolk, and boosting spending on education. The proposed education spending includes $10 million targeted at eliminating the achievement gap in the state’s 24 Gateway Cities, the Lowell Sun reports. The Herald suggests “delusion” is the reason Patrick is trying again to bring the Probation Department into the executive branch, and suggesting hiring more public defenders.

The chairman of the Middlesex Community College Board of Trustees takes issue with Gov. Deval Patrick’s proposed consolidation of the state’s 15 community colleges. He says local boards know what the local needs are, reports the Lowell Sun.

Former governor Paul Cellucci, confined to a wheelchair, talks with Emily Rooney about his battle with ALS and says we’re closer to a medical breakthrough in fighting the disease than many people know.

The state’s secretary of transportation seeks information about the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy’s salary structure, the Herald reports. WBUR’s Radio Boston interviews Nancy Brennan, director of the conservancy, who says many facts are wrong in yesterday’s Herald splash.

Joan Vennochi says things are looking up for Republican Charlie Baker in a possible second try for governor in 2014 given the lackluster field of potential Democratic contenders.

The Bay State Banner says the real answer to controlling criminals is “massive” education and training programs, not the state’s proposed three-strikes legislation..

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The politically connected woman who has run the community services center at a Lawrence-area antipoverty agency for the last 38 years retires and is replaced by her daughter, a laid-off secretary from Florida, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Stoughton Town Manager Francis Crimmins, who left a judgeship to take the position, unexpectedly resigned yesterday, effective the end of March, without explanation.

Newton Mayor Setti Warren promises an investigation of the city’s hiring practices after a second employee is arrested and faces child pornography charges, NECN reports.

A Quincy police sergeant was promoted to lieutenant and a former Boston Municipal Police officer was appointed to the Quincy police force after the state’s Civil Service Commission ruled the former mayor unfairly passed over them in favor of friends and relatives.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

President Obama makes several energy announcements, including opening up the gulf coastal waters to oil and gas drilling.

The Christian Science Monitor explores what the president can actually do about college tuition inflation.

ELECTION 2012

Years of bad blood between ex-congressman Bill Delahunt and his successor, Bill Keating, are making for lots of intrigue, reports the Globe’s Frank Phillips, as Keating prepares to defend himself in a Democratic primary that Delahunt seems to have more than a passing interest in.  

Sen. Scott Brown makes a campaign stop in Pittsfield and says he hopes to improve on his showing in western Mass in November. In 2010, he carried only the town of Otis. Worcester T&G columnist Diane Williamson places a tongue-in-cheek bet: US Sen. Scott Brown wears briefs.

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush makes the case that the GOP needs to court the Latino vote to win in November.

Republicans pine for Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels.

Mitt Romney has $3 million stashed in a Swiss bank account!!! Also, the former Bay State governor is becoming increasingly comfortable with saying uncharitable things about Newt Gingrich for the benefit of political reporters. Gingrich takes his attacks on Romney’s wealth to a new level, saying Romney is pocketing ”$20 million a year [for] no work.” Sen. Marco Rubio, who hasn’t endorsed anyone in the Florida primary, intervenes when Gingrich launches a radio ad calling Romney “anti-immigrant.”

Karl Rove pokes David Axelrod in the eye.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Fall River officials are demanding an apology from Secretary of State William Galvin for his comment at a State House hearing that their view of development is “if there’s something in the way … you should dig it up.”

Apartment rents keep rising in the Boston area, the Globe reports, making it one of the tightest and most expensive rental markets in the country.

The New York Times examines the human cost of the iEconomy with a report on the harsh conditions workers face assembling iPhones, iPads, and other devices.

Two differing takes on the latest bid to crack down on housing bubble-era mortgage abuses, from the Times and the Wall Street Journal.

EDUCATION

Teacher-tenure protections in many states are weakening, Governing reports.

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

National Grid joins NStar in requesting lower rates for this winter, largely because of dropping natural gas prices, the Lowell Sun reports.

Building permits for a Springfield biomass plant have been overerturned on appeal.

MEDIA

The Nieman Journalism Lab reports on American Public Media’s Public Insight Network, a database of personal experiences.

ODDITIES

Paging the owners of The Queen Bee, a 26-foot pleasure boat abandoned in rough seas off Nantucket in 2008.  Your vessel has been found… off the northern coast of Spain.