Why, indeed? Except for bowling, this President is becoming the Commander In Chief of all things athletic. Just take it from Robinson, the older brother of First Lady Michelle Obama. Robinson also is the miracle worker of a basketball coach at Oregon State when he isn't the unofficial head of the Barack Obama Fan Club.
We chatted in the back room of an ESPN studio in southern California this spring, when Robinson said of his sister's husband, "What people slept on with Barack is how really smart he is. When he's reading through the paper, he's not just reading the business section or the political section. He's reading the sports section, and he retains everything, because he's such a big fan."
So let's get this out of the way: Teddy Roosevelt was an avid outdoorsman, and he was such a devotee of intercollegiate athletics that helped create the NCAA. Dwight Eisenhower played Augusta National so often that they named a tree after him. Speaking of golfing Presidents (and there were a slew of them), John F. Kennedy regularly shot around 80 with a picturesque swing.
Not only that, Richard Nixon drew plays for the Washington Redskins when his buddy George Allen was the coach. Gerald Ford was cast as a klutz after he nailed more than a few spectators with golf shots, but he was a center for a couple of national championship teams at Michigan. Then there were Bill Clinton's jogs around the National Mall between pit-stops at local fast-food joints.
All of that said, Obama is five months into his White House stay, and he already is the greatest President ever when it comes to sports stuff. He can talk it. He can play it. He also can predict it. In addition to proving omniscient with his pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers to take the Super Bowl, he worked the brackets before the start of March Madness to crown North Carolina as king, which happened.
This is mostly good. As for the bad, when a sports-loving President is wrong about something regarding how they play the games, he can make things worse, especially since he is more powerful than David Stern times Roger Goodell, Bud Selig, the bosses of the various players' unions and the Phillie Phanatic.
Consider, for instance, that Obama is among the slew of knee-jerk folks who want at least an eight-team playoff system for the big boys of college football. They prefer such a thing without regard for its effect on the true student-athlete who already has too many games and practices. It also would create more cheating scandals, and it would heighten the confusion even more over who should play for a national championship (why eight teams? Why not 12, 16, 64? Who decides on who makes the playoffs? Where do they play, and what happens to the bowls?)
That's another column. Back to this one and the good (mostly) involving Obama's love affair with sports. For instance: he can use a stroke of his pen to deliver a left hook to the 96-year-old conviction of black heavyweight champion Jack Johnson. Earlier this week, the United States Senate approved a resolution by voice to implore Obama to pardon Johnson for his imprisonment regarding the romancing of a white woman. Well, that was the real reason for Johnson's conviction. The official reason was that he violated something called the Mann Act, which made it illegal to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.
Obama will stick and move on the matter.
At least he should.
He also should warm up his left arm by playing catch around the White House grounds with his daughters or somebody. It was just announced that he will join Kennedy, Nixon and Ford as the only Presidents ever to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at an All-Star Game. He'll do so on July 14 in St. Louis . He'll have a tough act to follow when it comes to Presidential ceremonial first pitches in general. George W. Bush was a master at them, and none was more impressive than his post-911 fastball to home plate at Yankee Stadium with the whole world watching.
Obama will rise to the occasion, though. He always does -- when he doesn't have a bowling ball in his hands. A basketball? That's another story, because playing hoops is his passion. Along the campaign trail last year, he heaved a 3-point shot at the spur of the moment upon request and sank the thing with ease. He enjoys pick up games, and he enjoys fitness, period. He works out nearly daily with an average week consisting of four days of weight training and two of cardio.
"He's a golfer now, and I know he and my sister play tennis," said Robinson during our chat last spring, soon after he took basically the same Oregon State team that won zero Pac-10 games before his arrival two seasons ago to an 18-18 finish that culminated with a championship of the College Basketball Invitational.
Added Robinson of Obama, "I'm glad to have him as our President."
Sports folks should be, too.
You know, depending on what Obama does with that Jack Johnson thing and what he doesn't do with that college football playoff thing.