Hey, that’s all right, but here’s what he says in his ESPN column about going to the White House for the Super Bowl:
I met Barack Obama years ago, first in Chicago at a reception and then with Charles Barkley when I was helping organize and edit Barkley’s second book, “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?” Obama was about to run for the U.S. Senate and he was extraordinarily generous with us, granting Barkley and me time to talk, mostly about race and politics.
We talked about sports as much as anything that day, about sports and education, sports and labor, sports and civic passions. And over the years, the senator and then the president made time to talk with me about sporting issues of all kinds, including how a guy from the South Side (me) could chose the Cubs over the White Sox. Turns out that’s one of the few places the president and I have a fundamental disagreement.
Obama is hardly the first U.S. president with a sweet tooth for sports. We’re at five straight: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. But Obama’s capacity for, passion for and range of knowledge is greater than any of the others. His ability to tie the issues of the day as they relate to sports to other cultural happenings is fascinating.
When one of the president’s lieutenants called last week to invite me (and my “PTI” co-host Tony Kornheiser) to attend the Super Bowl party, there was precious little time spent figuring out how to change my Sunday around. That phone call doesn’t come every day, maybe not a second time ever. That it came from a president who calls the same plot of land where I grew up home, whose wife grew up in an adjacent neighborhood at exactly the same time, whose friends in a great many cases are my friends, made it even more desirable.
Okay. I guess it may be time to remind people that Reagan was a radio sports announcer in his youth. It may not be that he had much to say about the relations between sports and race in the US, or had much of an opinion whether it was acceptable for someone who grew up on Chicago’s South Side to root for the Cubs rather than the White Sox, but it’s likely that he could have supplied a questioner with the names of some favorite players from the teams that he followed. The argument from intellectual capacity, at any rate, is a non-starter.
George Bush the Younger was famously–or notoriously, depending on one’s point of view–involved in the Texas Rangers organization, and likely to have had some rudimentary knowledge of the game in that capacity. Nixon was a pro football fanatic, and stupid old Gerald Ford played the game for Michigan, if I recall correctly. I’m not saying that Obama doesn’t have a basic understanding of football or baseball, either, but I don’t recall ever hearing him hold forth on the virtues of the 3-4 vs. the 4-3, for example.
As regards affairs foreign and domestic, I think he could use a little more strategery. Apart from his well-orchestrated undermining of the US economy, what I see is a lot of ad hoc favoritism that is more tactical than strategic. Offhand, it’s hard for me to imagine someone in an executive position who would make a worse GM of a football team.
But Obama knows some of the people who grew up near Wilbon, and they’re not fundamentally disagreed on most things, so . . . I guess that makes Obama a genius.