ESPN host (and former longtime Washington Post sports columnist) Michael Wilbon had a thrill up his leg over being invited to the Super Bowl party at the White House with a couple of hundred Obama friends. In a column for ESPN, Wilbon boasted "Obama's capacity for, passion for, and range of knowledge" on sports is greater than any other recent president. He also said "tough spit" on any conservative talkers who'd try to find anything scandalous in the East Room event:
If you're looking for that TMZ moment, a revelation of Charlie Sheen getting drunk and turning the East Room into a piano bar or Tareq and Michaele Salahi slipping past security and sitting next to President and Mrs. Obama, stop reading right now. There wasn't even a confrontation between the Steelers and Packers fans, nothing salacious or awkward or anything worthy of YouTube. And if the conservative talking heads don't believe that when they take exception to whatever they think went on, as they inevitably will, tough spit.
It was a Super Bowl party with nothing untoward to report, with probably a couple of hundred guests eating and drinking and looking at HD flat screens spaced the length of the room. In an interview with Bill O'Reilly that aired earlier in the day, President Obama made clear that he'd be the host with the most until the game got serious, and then he was going to get locked into the proceedings. And the president pretty much kept his promise.
Wilbon was even defensive of the Obamas when it came to the food, with "perhaps the best cheeseburgers I've had in five years. Not that there weren't salads and all the healthy green stuff you'd expect would be served in the White House, but let me repeat: perhaps the best cheeseburgers I've had in five years. Isn't that mandatory fare for a Super Bowl party, cheeseburgers? Oh yes, and chicken wings.)"
Wilbon also underlined that he and Obama have virtually no disagreements on politics, only on Chicago sports:
I met Barack Obama years ago, first in Chicago at a reception and then with Charles Barkley when I was helping organize and edit Barkley's second book, "Who's Afraid of a Large Black Man?" Obama was about to run for the U.S. Senate and he was extraordinarily generous with us, granting Barkley and me time to talk, mostly about race and politics.
We talked about sports as much as anything that day, about sports and education, sports and labor, sports and civic passions. And over the years, the senator and then the president made time to talk with me about sporting issues of all kinds, including how a guy from the South Side (me) could chose the Cubs over the White Sox. Turns out that's one of the few places the president and I have a fundamental disagreement.
Obama is hardly the first U.S. president with a sweet tooth for sports. We're at five straight: Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, Obama. But Obama's capacity for, passion for and range of knowledge is greater than any of the others. His ability to tie the issues of the day as they relate to sports to other cultural happenings is fascinating.
When one of the president's lieutenants called last week to invite me (and my "PTI" co-host Tony Kornheiser [also a former Postie]) to attend the Super Bowl party, there was precious little time spent figuring out how to change my Sunday around. That phone call doesn't come every day, maybe not a second time ever. That it came from a president who calls the same plot of land where I grew up home, whose wife grew up in an adjacent neighborhood at exactly the same time, whose friends in a great many cases are my friends, made it even more desirable.
[Ht: Tom Johnson]