Alex Podlogar

Thinking outside the pressbox

Whatever happened to Baller-In-Chief?

Published in The Sanford Herald on August 30, 2009

The column was the impetus for a Wall Street Journal article in November.


Sports Column

No shanks, Mr. President.

Look, I like Barack Obama as much as the next guy (well, given the recent poll numbers, maybe the next guy, or that guy over there, or maybe that woman who still has hope across the street — you know what I mean!), but this golfing thing has got to stop.

I’m not saying the president needs to give up the game — actually, that is what I’m saying, because I think it’s getting in the way of more important things.

No, not universal health care. Or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It’s getting in the way of his jump shot.

When then-senator and presidential candidate Barack Obama visited Chapel Hill to practice and run with the Tar Heels, I thought that was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen so public of a figure do. He has a silky little left-handed J and was man enough to take a game he knew well and mix it up with players much better than he. I loved that.

More, I liked the idea of a hoop being put up at the White House and the golf slacks put away for the next four years. Basketball is smooth. Athletic. Young. Golf, um, isn’t any of those things. It just felt, I don’t know, more hip that our new president was more playground metal nets than country club starch.

More now. More today. More he got next.

It was change I could believe in.

Because, for some strange reason, even though I haven’t handled a basketball in ages and play more golf than anything else, I felt like I could relate more to Obama when he was putting up jumpers instead of, uh… putting.

I’m a hacking golfer, too, though, thankfully, not to the degree of our president. And really, it’s not like any of our past Golfers in Chief were gunning for any sort of course records. Besides, Obama looks the part. Carries himself well on the links. Looks natural. So it’s not because his swing is lousy.

But it is lousy. I’m talking Charles Barkley-bad, here.

Let me put it in language you might be better able to understand, Mr. President.

Basketball? Yes, you can. Golf? No, you can’t.

And that’s OK. Nobody solves golf. Unless you count Tiger Woods, and even he didn’t win a major this year. Maybe he was playing too many pick-up games at the local Y.

I’ll admit, I can see something worthwhile in this debacle. Maybe, like his suiting up with the Heels, Obama is confident in his abilities and has enough self-assurance to play such a difficult game in front of the glaring public eye. He’s taking the challenge head-on, a physical kind of metaphor that fits in well with the current state of the country as a whole.

Just don’t do something because somebody thinks you should, O. That’s what this golf endeavor feels like. A bunch of past presidents played golf, so you feel like you should, too. It seems contrived, like W caring about lower-income people or something. Do instead what got you there — what you believe is right. I think that’s what we want in a leader.

We want a point guard, not a D player on a captain’s choice team.

So don’t post a score, Sir — post up. Don’t hit the range — show some range. Don’t dribble one off the tee — dribble.

And then take it to the hole.

The hoop, I mean, Mr. President.

The hoop.


February 3, 2010 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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