Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, February 07, 2009

Obama Goes to Court

After he saves the economy, the new President will face a really tough decision: With March Madness almost here, where will he shoot hoops and with whom?

Barack Obama, the nation's first basketball-playing chief executive, lives in a White House with a tennis court and bowling alley, but he will have to leave the grounds to get a game--either at Fort Myers off Arlington Cemetery three miles away, the Interior Department's basement or the House's Rayburn Building, where he could be mugged by John Boehner's gang.

After all those presidents devoted to golf (pace Ike), it's metaphorically reassuring to have one defined, not by suburban exclusion, but the rough-and-tumble of a city game--threading through tight spaces under pressure, seeing openings and seizing them, making moves while keeping track of where others are, using every second and every inch to score in a contest where bodies and brains are always in motion.

If basketball is of any value in assessing Obama, it is in the teamwork, in what Bill Bradley calls the “ethic of connectedness,” individual effort and collective responsibility.

Before Michelle Robinson agreed to marry him, according to family legend, her brother Craig took her suitor to the gym and checked out his mettle.

Underneath all that Obama charm and grace, there are, as we have begun to see this week, sharp elbows when necessary.

At Camp David, the Commander-in-Chief will find a court used by the Marines and Navy Seabees stationed there. Unlike Congress, they won't be crying foul at the slightest touch.

Update: After the first weekend there, apparently Camp David will do, as the President announced that he had "played a little basketball." No word on whether anyone was keeping score.

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