Bill Simmons On Obama: ‘There’s a Serenity About Him That Disarms Just About Everyone’

November 18th, 2015 11:25 PM

Almost two years ago, in an interview with The New Yorker’s David Remnick, President Obama drew one of the worst sports-related analogies ever when he likened ISIS to a JV team. Last month, Obama sat for an interview with an actual sportswriter, Bill Simmons, who pretty much pitched batting practice, thereby minimizing the chance of presidential gaffes, sporting or otherwise. The Q&A appears in the new issue of GQ.

Simmons, the former ESPN and Grantland personality who’s developing a show for HBO, set the highly deferential tone in his introduction, declaring that Obama “carries himself like Roger Federer, a merciless competitor who keeps coming and coming, only there’s a serenity about him that disarms just about everyone…He casually compared himself to Aaron Rodgers, and he wasn’t bragging. Obama identified with Rodgers’s ability to keep his focus downfield despite all the chaos happening in front of him. That’s Obama’s enduring quality, and (to borrow another sports term) this has been his ‘career year.’”

Specifically, remarked Simmons, “in 2015, [Obama] finally started letting it fly [and] let everyone know ‘THIS IS ME NOW!’ Gay marriage, health care, Charleston, the Iran deal…If you voted against him, 2015 was the year when his inner confidence bothered you more than ever. And if you voted for him, 2015 was definitely the year when you said, ‘That is the guy I voted for.’”

Though the last third of the interview contains plenty of chat about sports, pop culture, and family, most of the conversation dealt with politics. Simmons’s questions included:

-- “Was there a point in those first three years where you started to feel overwhelmed by the job? Where you were just like, ‘My God, I just had no idea this was going to be this hard!’”

-- “Is it fair to say that in 2015, you’ve been like the second-semester high school senior who got into Yale and now is like, ‘I’m going out tonight—I don’t care if I have a test tomorrow’? All of us were kind of waiting for that guy to show up after he got re-elected. What took two years to get there?”

-- “When Ferguson happened last year, I was waiting for Obama the Person to come in. But you had to be President Obama. How you handled Charleston this year and Selma—that was Obama the Person. So what happened with Ferguson? Do you wish you had handled that differently?”

Simmons also asked Obama if he’d be interested in serving on the Supreme Court. The response in part: “I don’t have the temperament to sit in relative solitude and just opine and write from the bench. I want to be in the action a little bit more.”