I'm still mulling over the sad end of a sports story I'd been following closely despite my general distaste for professional sports.
The Lacrosse World Championships were being held in England earlier this month. The Iroquois Nationals, a team from the Iroquois League of Native American tribes, found themselves unable to leave the country to play in the championship because they didn't have US passports. They only had the passports issued by their own sovereign nation, which the Iroquois have been using to travel without incident since the 1970s.
What followed was a bit of an uproar as they were suddenly stranded in New York City, having to scramble for hotels and meals at the last minute. While their scheduled pre-tournament practice time, and eventually the tournament itself, was passing them by, they were stuck here at the mercy of a bureaucracy which had taken leave of its senses.
The officials' concern appeared to be that the Iroquois' passports lack modern security features, machine-readability, or RFID. They were repeatedly told to get US or Canadian passports instead (the Iroquois territory straddles the US/Canada border) which the Iroquois steadfastly refused to do as a matter of principle. The fiasco brought up all sorts of issues about the right of the sovereign Iroquois nation to issue their own passports and have them respected.
Finally, the US government relented and issued one-time waivers which allowed these guys to get on the plane to England on their own passports, but then England refused to let them in on their passports.
In the end the Nationals missed their game (and it does appear to be their game; lacrosse's roots are traceable back to the Iroquois' ancestors) and their shot at the championships because they valued their own national identity and principles more than they wanted to appease disrespectful paper-pushing bureaucrats on both sides of the Atlantic for the sake of their place in the tournament.
The Iroquois Nationals have been nothing but class acts through this whole mess, and continue to shine in the aftermath. They released a statement praising the teams and officials behind the championship, and declaring their intentions to appear at future tournaments.
This is why I have a favorite sports team, and why I wish them the best for all their future tournaments. The World Lacrosse Championships are only held every four years, and it's unknown where they will take place, but if it's at all practical I think I'd like to go and see this team play in 2014.