Gushy Sportswriter Nonsense About "the First Fan"


Bill Plaschke, the Thomas L. Friedman of sports columnists (minus Friedman's ability to sell books), uncorks a piece today that, while not the worst sports column ever written, certainly belongs in any reasonable Top 10. Plaschke, a penis-eater, makes with a straight face the argument that, "The First Fan, with his support of the White Sox and Bulls, shares our passion for sports, unlike any president before him and in ways that only true sports nuts will understand." Get ready to gag yourself with a Dodger Dog:

For an American president, there is nothing of greater importance than reaching the American people. And there's no better way of doing that than authentically sharing our passion for sports. Unlike any president before him, in ways that only true sports nuts will understand, Obama does that.

The First Fan is really a fan. He's about more than an occasional first pitch or White House champion photo op. He's about a wrinkled hometown baseball cap and weathered hometown loyalties and picking winners and spouting off at the heart.

He throws out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game and, even though he's wearing a Nationals jacket, at the last moment he pulls on a cap from the Chicago White Sox.

Real fans, even those of the Nationals and Chicago Cubs, have to respect that.

W-w-w-w-w-w-wh-wh-wha-wha-what-what-WHAT???? The president may be a damned good basketball player, and possibly the most fit cigarette smoker we've had in the White House, but when it comes to baseball he throws like a pre-Title IX girl and can't name a single favorite player off his allegedly favorite team:

His predecessor, much as I might dislike him, ACTUALLY OWNED A MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL TEAM. He was a goddamned cheerleader. And could throw a strike in the clutch:

George H.W. Bush, Forbes recently reported, was "the most sporting man to ever inhabit the Oval Office," with an active participation in "football, baseball, soccer, wrestling, tennis, squash, golf, fishing, hunting, jogging, horseshoes, boating and skydiving." Ronald Reagan in college was "a member of the football and track teams, the basketball cheerleading squad, [and] captain of the swimming team," then went on to become a sports broadcaster and star of a Grover Cleveland Alexander biopic. Gerald Ford "starred on 2 straight national [football] champions at Michigan," and Richard Nixon was such a football fanatic (it being one of three sports he played in college), that he famously (if apocryphally) sent play calls to Redskins coach George Allen and allowed himself to be interviewed by his sworn enemy Hunter S. Thompson on grounds that they only talk about their shared love of the pigskin.

But wait! Plaschke's column gets worse, in both the selection of and content provided by his one material witness, the insufferable Doris Kearns Goodwin:

Even though that first pitch was high and wobbly, it was like his other sports moments, all fastball. […]

"We have had other presidents active in sports, but Obama seems to be a real fan who is not afraid to let his emotions as a fan come out," said presidential historian and sports nut Doris Kearns Goodwin. "Other presidents were always worried about making another team mad, they were always like, 'I'm for everybody,' but not Obama. He speaks a like true fan, and I think true fans really appreciate it."

This is all-screwball. Not only was Obama's White Sox-speak the single least convincing politician fan-rap since Hillary Clinton became a New Yorker, Nixon (for one) wasn't "for everybody," he was CALLING REDSKINS PLAYS.

Believe me, as a genetically and environmentally coded baseball fan, I would love nothing more than to see the intersection of politics and baseball be bulldozed and covered permanently with nothing but flowers. But if you're gonna put the president on the sports page, at least get some intern to consult the Wikipedia.

Link via beloved reader and certified sports fanatic Steve Smith, who defends Obama's White Sox answer here.

UPDATE: Shame on me for neglecting to link to Tim Cavanaugh's January 2009 meditation on "Barack Obama's place in presidential sports history."