I'm sitting on board a southbound Amtrak train as I type this. I booked it just last Friday. I'm going to see our political process at work. Tomorrow, with Sarah Ehekircher, I'm going to sit in the public gallery while USA Swimming CEO Tim Hinchey III and other NGB leaders testify before the House Energy and Commerce committee.
I have no idea what to expect. Like many people, I've watched congressional hearings in highlight clips with varying levels of interest. The most cynical instinct is that even if Hinchey et al face harsh questioning, a hearing like this is nothing more than a public scolding.
Perhaps, but a public scolding would go a long way in the culture that we currently live in sports. The prevailing strategy for people in power has been to mostly avoid the fray and do some carefully coordinated PR. Many casual observers have bought that PR, or at least been indifferent enough that they haven't put much pressure on powerful people for that strategy.
It's worked for Mark Schubert, who was named just yesterday in yet another lawsuit, all too predictable after his years stumbling contradictions and contortions.. Sure, he got "fired" from USA Swimming, but he didn't walk away empty handed. He settled with Dia Rianda, scurrying away once again without being compelled to tell the truth.
He still sits as the head coach of one of the most storied swim clubs in America. Likewise, consequences have been severely lacking for all the moving parts that aided or abetted Sean Hutchison in abusing Ari Kukors Smith.
So I'll be looking to our elected leaders to do just that: lead. They can signal to their constituents that they are going to provide real oversight and accountability for sport NGBs. They can ask the hard questions about how a coach like Hutchison was allowed to harness so much power and rise up within a system.
They should probe beyond stories like Kukors that grab headlines because of her Olympic pedigree. There are likely thousands of people within American swimming who have experienced something similar to what Kukors endured.
They deserve to know that people care, that people will fight for them. Very few have gotten to see any kind of justice for what has been done to them, and the committee has the opportunity to push the arc of justice in a better direction..
When Sarah asked me to go with her, I was humbled. She gives me a lot of strength and motivation when I'm not quite sure the next step to take in this journey.
Check back tomorrow for some quick hit thoughts on what we saw and heard.