Sports website Grantland editor-in-chief Bill Simmons recently interviewed President Barack Obama at the White House, producing the first-ever podcast with a sitting U.S. president. Their interview focused solely on sports, covering topics including Linsanity and college football.
To make clear that this was a sports interview, Simmons opened his Q&A by saying, “Let’s talk about sports, you have plenty of time to talk about politics with whoever.”
But, alas, we know all too well that anything Obama says, no matter the topic, will be boiled down to uncover possible political undertones.
And Obama had a lot of political undertones in this one.
When referencing New York Knicks Asian American star Jeremy Lin, was Obama speaking on a new foreign policy tool the U.S. will use to inject American influence in China and boost diplomacy between the two countries? Yes.
In sharing his views on the 2011 NBA lockout, did Obama sound like he was pro-Occupy Wall Street and will he use their class warfare message heavily in the 2012 re-election process? Yes.
Does Obama already know he’s going to win the 2012 election, and did it take a question about the Chicago Bulls to get the president to admit what we all surmised: That the Republican Party is broken and has already gifted the election to Obama? Yes.
It’s a sports interview heavily dealing with basketball, yeah, but here are the big political take-aways.
Obama will win re-election in 2012.
When Simmons asked Obama how he has time to follow sports, Obama answered that he doesn’t watch really watch cable TV, but every morning when he’s working out, he does watch ESPN’s Sports Center.
He also added that, “I tend to be a night guy … so I usually have to stay up until midnight or 1 a.m. reading stuff, and every once in a while, I’ll sneak in a ball game.” (Obama sounds like a workaholic, btw.)
Obama says he loves watching the Chicago Bulls play (duh, he’s from Illinois). He hopes to one day welcome the Bulls to the White House, honoring them for an NBA championship win. And according to Obama, he has five more NBA seasons to make this dream a reality.
“I’ve got another five years here,” Obama says on his White House lease.
There you go. Obama knows he has the election locked down. He might not be watching TV, but he sure is following the Republican primary train wreck, and knows those guys don’t have a chance.
Jeremy Lin will ease tensions with China.
Barack Obama, a Harvard man, saw Lin-sanity coming before everyone else (‘Bam’s so smart).
“I knew about Jeremy before everybody else did. I’ve been on the Jeremy Lin bandwagon for a while.”
When talking about Lin’s “great story,” we can see the political hamsters in Obama’s head spinning their wheel, and all of a sudden Obama is spinning foreign and economic policy from Jeremy Lin.
Jeremy Lin’s story, Obama says, “elevates this great [American] sport all around the world, it can’t hurt ratings in China.” Editor’s note: I inserted “America” in there, just to add effect. The second half of the quote is striking, too. Will Jeremy Lin open up new economic markets in China?
Unfortunately Lin’s family hails from Taiwan, China’s mortal enemy. But Maybe Lin could, in Obama’s perfect foreign policy world, also bridge the diplomatic divide between China and Taiwan.
Obama supports Occupy Wall Street, and cares about blue collar workers
When talking on the NBA lockout — which pitted rich players against richer owners — Obama echoes the class warfare rhetoric Occupy Wall Street: “If you have billionaires on one side and millionaires on another, you guys should figure out how to divide some money up.”
And Obama also doesn’t forget the little man in all of this.
“You got a whole bunch of folks, all across the country, who invest so much in their teams … most of them can barely afford a ticket to actually go to a game … don’t be so selfish about it, where you’re not looking out for your fans.”
If you replace “teams” with “manufacturing jobs,” “ticket” with “mortgage payment,” and “your fans” with “hard-working Americans,” you got yourself a nice little campaign slogan.
Is Obama’s basketball fanaticism a political liability?
Yes. Sports fans are crazy. And when sports teams lose, sports fans become even crazier. A word of advice to the president: try not to mix business with pleasure.
Sports can very much be a liability.
Take a classic Obama moment two years ago, when he called the then-top ranked and undefeated University of Kentucky men’s basketball team to say how much of a fan he was of then-star Kentucky point guard and current NBA stand-out John Wall.
Right after the Haiti earthquake, the team had set up a special relief fund. Obama called the Wildcats while they were in the locker room preparing for a game against South Carolina to congratulate them.
The Wildcats went on to lose the game, their first loss of the scene.
Kentucky fans, understandably, became irrational, and blamed Obama for messing with their team’s mojo. Some say Kentucky never really forgave Obama. Obama currently polls eight points lower than Romney in the state. As a Kentuckian, I can report that people in Kentucky know full well that Romney will never win, and are only favoring him ahead of Obama because of the specter of South Carolina.
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