Baller-in-Chief.com is the name of the website collecting the votes and all things Obama and Basketball. Editor Claude Johnson also researches pre-NBA history of African Americans in basketball as president of Black Fives, Inc. Johnson launched the website in 2008 to promote the first president who plays more basketball than golf.
“No matter how trivial, if it happens and it involves Obama and the word basketball, Baller-in-Chief is there.” according to a review by the Things Insular Blog of the Martha’s Vineyard Gazette.
The nontrivial is there too including the terrific analysis of how basketball has shaped our 44th president: Audacity of Hoops by Alexander Wolff for Sports Illustrated in 2009. Obama’s first basketball was a Christmas gift from his Kenyan father; all Obama remembers directly about his dad is from that 1971 visit. Basketball helped Obama sort out complicated issues of racial identity as an adolescent. Pickup hoops in college and law school influenced his notions of teamwork, on and off the court. Basketball was a way to connect with Chicago South Siders as a community organizer and to appeal to the basketball-mad swing states of Indiana and North Carolina. In North Carolina, the support of retired UNC Coach Dean Smith was almost as good as an endorsement from God.
If hoops could decide the upcoming election, Obama could already start scheduling games after January for the White House basketball court. I’m pretty sure Mitt Romney can’t make a behind-the-back pass. His closest reference to basketball is an awkward observation at a campaign event in Fort Worth, Texas. “I met a guy yesterday, 7 feet tall,” the Republican candidate said. “I figured he had to be in sport, but he wasn’t in sport!”
Sports, with an s, is what millions of Americans will play, coach and watch this weekend, including the NBA finals between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. Likely most of the 600,000 viewers of the Obama Mixtape on YouTube also feel more comfortable with that final s.
The Romneys hope to win at a sport championship this weekend. Ann Romney's dressage horse Rafaica appears headed to the London Olympics based on a strong showing last week at U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation headquarters in New Jersey. The competition concludes this weekend.
In dressage, formally clad riders guide extremely expensive horses through a series of complex, dance-like maneuvers. Points are deducted if the riders speak.
How you talk in basketball matters. Some syntax is monosyllable simple. Warn a teammate of a coming "pick." Yell "switch" if the pick was still too good. Other linguistics of basketball, however, require all the nuance of sophisticated cultural diplomacy. A little trash talk helps earn respect from teammates and opponents. Too much, and you might find your next shot residing just above your Adam’s apple. And that player who just stuffed you may be your teammate in the next pickup game and won’t exactly be looking to get you the ball.
It’s equally important to verbally own your mistakes and praise great plays by your teammates. Ballers will scream “my bad” if they muff a pass to an open teammate. They’ll slap a high five and shout out “great pass” if one comes their way.
I couldn’t beat Obama, though he’d like playing with me because I set good picks and share his belief that the teamwork required for good basketball is an excellent way to size up the character of a person. Michelle Obama had her brother do just that in a pickup game arranged precisely to take stock of her eventual husband.
In 1987, I almost played an almost presidential hopeful as a reporter for Newsday splitting time between Albany and the presidential campaign. New York Gov. Mario Cuomo challenged me to a one-on-one game at the Executive Mansion. The game never happened. I was always many states away trailing the elder George Bush whenever a Cuomo aide called with an actual time. I swear they knew I was out of town before they called. Cuomo, as competitive as they come, told me I lost by default three times. He always was a politician who keeps score. He also sometimes had problems making up his mind, certainly about running for president.
Baller-in-chief has my endorsement, the President and the website, even if it needs updating. The most recent post is from last Thanksgiving "12 stitches for Obama after errant elbow in hoops."
Is that ominous or perceptive for the upcoming general election? Winning the last time doesn’t mean you win the next. You still have to run hard and smart and tough. I hope Obama’s still got game.