As the old cliché goes, athletes are not role models.
And then, there's Tim Thomas.
Somewhere today there is a free-swinging Little Leaguer doing bench duty who can draw inspiration from the Bruins' Stanley Cup champion goalie. Somewhere there is a poor soul stuck in a dead-end job, knowing he or she could be so much more, even if those who control the career path have little faith that greatness awaits.
The Tim Thomas Story isn't quite over, but after last night you might as well stamp a "Fin" on it and wait to pen the epilogue to chronicle the rest of his career. Of every worthy Bruins player that hoisted that Cup last night, none deserved it more than their goalie after the historic postseason he displayed. None worked harder for that moment, being told the same thing from the end of his college days at the University of Vermont right up until this very series in which the Vancouver Canucks called him "leaky" and an "enigma."
"You're not good enough."
That guy has won a Vezina. He's about to win another one. He won a Conn Smythe Trophy.
And he won a Stanley Cup.
In more than one way, Thomas is the epitome of these 2011 Stanley Cup champions. Never mind his dazzling display on the ice, the story of his career parallels that of his teammates, just over a year ago the laughingstocks of the NHL. Now, each and every one of those that was on the ice on the night the Bruins blew a 3-0, 3-0 lead to the Philadelphia Flyers is immortalized in Boston hockey history. Just as our mothers and fathers refuse to shut up about Bobby Orr and the way hockey used to be, we'll pepper our sons and daughters with the tales of these Bruins. And with all due respect to Brad Marchand, Zdeno Chara, Patrice Bergeron, Nathan Horton, and every other member of the spoked-B club, Tim Thomas will be the one at the forefront of the fable.
Somewhere today there is a child struggling with his or her math homework. Somewhere there is a careworn musician fighting to pay the bills, resigned to giving up on his or her dream of a life of song in exchange for minimum wage. Somewhere there is someone saying, "I can't do it."
And then, there's Tim Thomas. Stanley Cup champion.
Inspiration comes in many forms. Even from a journeyman goalie from Flint, Mich. Fight for what you want in life. Believe in yourself. And when things look they're absolutely rock-bottom, fight harder. Believe deeper.
The Boston Bruins are Stanley Cup champions for the first time in 39 years, and that's not even the story.
What we'll remember most is the perseverance, the intense bond, and the faith these Bruins had in each other. Nothing came easy for them. Nothing.
Nothing came easy for Tim Thomas in his career either. Nothing.
Now, he's at the summit of his hockey dreams. Stanley Cup champion.
For every LeBron James , there is a Tim Thomas, someone from whom we can summon some sort of inspiration. Isn't that why we watch, play, and teach sports in the first place?
Athletes aren't role models. But sometimes their stories are.