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Less hoops, more politics for Obama

Commentary

March 24, 2013
By John Mehno (jmehno@lycos.com) , The Altoona Mirror

PITTSBURGH - The leader of the free world was on ESPN the other day, detailing his brackets in the NCAA Tournament.

President Barack Obama, Sharpie in hand, was writing in his picks on a big board as he explained them to ESPN's Andy Katz. That raised two points: 1. ESPN is well on its way to becoming the most powerful force in media and, 2. It's distressing to think that the President has this much time to devote to something so frivolous.

Being president is a difficult, stress-filled job. Everyone needs a diversion from the insane pressures. Eisenhower played golf. Nixon updated his enemies list. Clinton got to know the interns.

President Obama didn't just pick winners in the games, he offered insights. He may have been working from unseen crib sheets provided by the staff, but he knew who coaches which teams and he knows the names of players. He even worked in the requisite Joe Biden joke.

If you're running for office in this country, you pretty much need some connection to sports. To have no interest is un-American. Jimmy Carter is the only President in recent memory to have scant interest in sports, and you saw what happened to him.

The Kennedys played touch football on the White House lawn. Nixon used to suggest plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen. George H.W. Bush played first base at Yale. His son owned the Texas Rangers for a time. Clinton kept an eye on the cheerleaders.

But Obama is in solid for another four years. There's no re-election to worry about. In that context, you'd almost like to see the Commander in Chief say something like, "Brackets? I have a madman in North Korea with nuclear weapons, gas is $3.75 a gallon and Detroit looks like a bomb hit it. I really don't have time for brackets."

But that wouldn't work in our sports mad culture. So there was the 42nd President with ESPN's Andy Katz, explaining who he likes in that Arizona-Belmont matchup.

Not must-see TV

Root sports premiered its new "Sunday Night Classics" series last weekend. The shows will look back at famous games, augmented with comments from people who were involved.

The first installment featured the seventh game of the 1979 World Series. Those interviewed included Dave Parker, Phil Garner, Kent Tekulve (who is on Root about 150 times a year anyway), Grant Jackson, the indecipherable Manny Sanguillen and, inexplicably, Root's own Stan Savran.

It could have been a better show with more effort (and probably more expense). Sanguillen was pretty much the 25th man on the 1979 team.

Based on the first show, this series is likely to be a mildly interesting and cheap time filler rather than anything special.

Mehno can be reached at johnmehnocolumn@gmail.com

 
 

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