In becoming the first standing President to throw out the All-Star Game’s first pitch since Gerald Ford in 1976, Barack Obama cemented his status as the nation’s First Sports Fan.
Skeptical? Don’t be.
Earlier in the day, he visited the All-Star clubhouses, where the
teams got to spend a moment with the President. Obama signed a baseball
for a giddy Ichiro (“Here you go, Hall of Famer,” Obama reportedly said to the Mariners outfielder upon returning the ball.), ribbed Derek Jeter for being the old guy on the AL team, asked Tim Wakefield to teach him how to throw a knuckleball, collected some macadamia nuts from the stash of fellow Hawaiian Shane Victorino and joked with St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols about losing to Prince Fielder the day before in the Home Run Derby.
During the pregame ceremony, Obama strode out of the home dugout
wearing a Chicago White Sox jacket, shook hands with nattily clad
Cardinals legend Stan Musial and jogged out to the
mound. The 47-year-old lefty then reared back, delivered a low strike
(let’s give him the benefit of the doubt) to Pujols and pumped his fist
So much for having to loosen up.
Obama later joined the FOX broadcast booth for the bottom of the
second inning. “This is as much fun as I’ve had in quite some time,”
said the President. “This is the national pastime. And to go down there
and meet Stan Musial and Bob Gibson and those guys … it’s such a reminder of what’s great about this country. You can’t beat it. It’s a real treat.”
The inimitable Tim McCarver then questioned his choice of jackets, especially in front of the St. Louis crowd.
“Listen,” said Obama, “everybody knows I’m a White Sox fan and my
wife thinks I look cute in this jacket, so between those two things,
why not?” So much for being soft on defense!
Though he was noncommittal on his pick to win the 2009 World Series
— he did point out that the Dodgers have been “playing terrific ball” —
he spoke intelligently on the parity running rampant in the majors and
accurately mocked the disaster that is his new local team, the
Still not convinced he’s a huge sports fan? The connections don’t stop there.
He scored four baskets in April of 2008 in a pickup game — with members of the WNBA’s Indiana Fever — tied to a voter registration drive in the state.
The same month, he scrimmaged with Tyler Hansbrough and the North Carolina Tar Heels, even though his “body man,” Reggie Love,
is a former basketball and football player at Duke. And when the NCAA
Tournament brackets came out last March, Obama very publicly picked UNC to win it all. He was right.
This spring, he also shot hoops at the White House with the UConn Lady Huskies, the 2009 NCAA champs. “He was pretty good from 17 feet,” said coach Geno Auriemma. “His shot’s a little unorthodox, but it goes in … He’s got a little bit of that swagger.”
He very publicly came clean about an Election Day superstition: that he and his staff must play a good-luck game of pickup basketball.
“I do think you can tell something about people by the way they play basketball,” he told HBO’s Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel.
But it’s not just basketball. He developed a close relationship with Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney and correctly predicted a Steelers victory in Super Bowl XLIII.
He threw out the first pitch for his hometown White Sox in the 2005 ALCS, as well. In an interview last summer with ESPN’s Stuart Scott, Obama was asked who he would root for if the Cubs and White Sox were to meet in the World Series.
“Oh, that’s easy. White Sox,” he immediately quipped. “I’m not one
of these fair-weather fans. You go to Wrigley Field, you have a beer;
beautiful people up there. People aren’t watching the game. It’s not
serious. White Sox, that’s baseball. South Side.”
Wow, how do you really feel, Mr. President?
Before the All-Star Game, White Sox hurler Mark Buehrle wanted to make sure Obama was decked out in his favorite team’s garb.
“It would be an honor for him to take one of my hats to the White
House as a keepsake,” said the four-time All-Star. “Obviously, the
Secret Service will be around, but I’ll try to get as close as I can.”
Obama has even lobbied — rather vocally — for Chicago to host the 2016 Summer Olympics.
Before Tuesday’s All-Star Game, Mets third baseman David Wright was excited at the prospect of shooting the breeze with the leader of the free world.
“I’d just talk sports,” Wright told the AP. “I mean, he seems pretty
athletic and he likes to participate in sports. I would just sit around
and talk sports. I know he likes college hoops, so maybe we’ll talk a
little ACC basketball.”
Before the election, Obama critics said he might be too smart to be President. But when it’s sports smarts we’re talking about? Hey, it’s kinda cool. He’d get my vote.
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