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Barack Obama, Superstar

Barry Obama, Punahou basketball photo

Barry Obama, Punahou basketball photo

This must be a trying time to be a political reporter.  Everyone’s tired of lame duck George W. Bush but Barack Obama won’t take office for sixty-three days, leaving speculation about appointees and strained a change is a-comin’ stories.  For example, Christopher Clarey‘s NYT feature “For Obama, a Scouting Report on Athletic Heads of State.”

The short version:  Obama was a bench player on his state championship high school basketball team and he’s still in great shape.  Other heads of state like sports, too, including a few who were Olympic caliber athletes.  Ergo, he’s going to have a powerful connection with them.

The problem with this is that quite a few recent American presidents have better sporting pedigrees than Obama and it seemed to have no impact at all.  For example, George W. Bush was not only an avid runner until his knees finally gave out along with his approval ratings but was an owner and president of a Major League baseball team.  George H.W. Bush was captain of the Yale baseball team.  Ronald Reagan played sports through college and did radio play-by-play for Iowa Hawkeye football and Chicago Cubs baseball games.  Jimmy Carter was a star basketball player in high school. Gerald Ford was a star football player at Michigan.

Hell, Sarah Palin was the starting point guard on her state high school championship team.  I don’t recall any NYT stories explaining how that translated into foreign policy expertise.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He earned a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. Patrick says:

    But could they rock an Afro like Barry did?

    I love these pictures of people way back when. Shows that we all have poor decision making skills in high school :)

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  2. Dave Schuler says:

    Any old port in a storm.

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  3. […] union leader Evo Morales, For Obama, a Scouting Report on Athletic Heads of State. James Joyner aims, shoots, and scores in his comment on the puff […]

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  4. Bobbert says:

    Hell, Sarah Palin was the starting point guard on her state high school championship team. I don’t recall any NYT stories explaining how that translated info foreign policy expertise.

    Nope. And if Obama had said that he could see Russia from his house, they would have spun that as a good thing.

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  5. Triumph says:

    For example, George W. Bush was not only an avid runner until his knees finally gave out along with his approval ratings but was an owner and president of a Major League baseball team.

    You forgot to mention that GW Bush was also a cheerleader for the football team at Andover. This probably explains why he got along so well with members of Congress like Larry Craig, Mark Foley, and Jim Kolbe.

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  6. carpeicthus says:

    Look, if Obama had come out and said “I’ll be great at foreign policy! I’ve played basketball!” then I would be the first person making fun of him. But it’s the NYT being silly here for the “slow news month” reason James suggested, not Obama. The “I can see my house from here” claims got traction as “I can’t believe they’d say that” when they were picked up by McCain and Palin themselves.

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  7. Gippergal says:

    Well, there were a lot of fascinating things about Palin that could’ve been discussed, instead of Springer-esque theories about who Trig’s “real” mom was.

    What surprises me is the stereotype that the liberal illuminati are indulging in, in the story mentioned: we vote in an African-American president, so now we have to feature a basketball-related photo? You know – because he’s tall, and black?

    It’s as bad as doing stories on Michelle solely related to her jewelry choices, instead of her career experience, etc.

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  8. JKB says:

    Hell, Sarah Palin was the starting point guard on her state high school championship team. I don’t recall any NYT stories explaining how that translated info foreign policy expertise.

    Not only that, she was co-captain of the team in a year that should have been reconstruction after so many players graduated. Instead they were champions demonstrating a lot of experience in building, managing and being part of a winning team.

    Thus is why the sports analogies were not used during the campaign. Palin was a doer and Obama was a watcher.

    Scary that even after having won the election, Obama’s media supporters are still trying to find links that show he might be able to do the job.

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  9. anjin-san says:

    Palin was a doer and Obama was a watcher.

    Spoken like someone who never played sports.

    A pretty small percentage of high school students ever play a varsity sport, either as a starter or a bench warmer.. A tiny percentage of the athletes that do ever win a state championship.

    I started a total of 3 games in my high school football career (we did have some damn good teams) and I assure you, I and everyone on the roster worked their asses off. I suspect the same is true of all high school sports teams.

    Dismissing any type of participation in a state championship is a statement of ignorance.

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  10. JKB says:

    Ah, yes, but the comparison was not between a team member and the general high school population.

    The comparison was between someone on a championship team and someone who led a championship team.

    It is the leadership that matters not the championship.

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  11. anjin-san says:

    JKB,

    Well let’s apply your standard elsewhere.

    Palin had a rather pedestrian college career which culminated in a BA from University of Idaho.

    Obama has a BA from Columbia. He went on to graduate magna cum laude from Harvard, where he was the President of the Harvard Law Review. He then went on to teach constitutional law at The University of Chicago.

    Its pretty easy to argue that ones educational credentials are more important to a President than a good jump shot. Obama’s achievements eclipse Palin’s by orders of magnitude.

    So does this mean Palin is “a watcher” while Obama is “a doer”?

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  12. Triumph says:

    Not only that, she was co-captain of the team in a year that should have been reconstruction after so many players graduated. Instead they were champions demonstrating a lot of experience in building, managing and being part of a winning team.

    Yeah, but lets remember this happened in ALASKA. A state with a population less than that of Memphis and not place known for hoops.

    In fact, the only reason Palin was on the basketball team was because she couldn’t make the more competitive Alaskan sports teams like hockey, curling, and biathlon.

    Being the star of the “state champion” Alaskan basketball team is akin to being the star of the Alabaman state champion cricket squad. There is no competition in the latter. It shows Palin was either untalented or a coward.

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  13. anjin-san says:

    It is the leadership that matters not the championship.

    The more you talk, the more clear it is you know nothing about sports. A very talented star player is not necessarily a leader. Some are even be detrimental to the team due to a bad attitude. Athletic ability and leadership are not necessarily linked.

    A fair player or even a bench warmer can be a leader in a lot of ways that are not reflected on a stat sheet or in minutes played.

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  14. Steve Verdon says:

    And Barack could see Japan from his high school if he stood on his tippy toes.

    Jesus our media people suck.

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  15. anjin-san says:

    Jesus our media people suck.

    Thats why we have the internets…

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  16. tom p says:

    What surprises me is the stereotype that the liberal illuminati are indulging in

    Oh NOOOO!!!! The Liberal Illuminati are about to strike again! Run away!!!

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  17. sam says:
    Jesus our media people suck.

    Thats why we have the internets…

    They suck, too, pretty much.

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  18. sam says:

    Although this might show what how the future nets might not suck at all:

    Web Sites That Dig for News Rise as Watchdogs

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