Pavilion Parade by M V Muhsin
November 11th, 2012 by Admin

Obama’s basketball good luck charm thrills all fans

Barack Obama is the ultimate three point shooter, commented former Chief of Staff and now Mayor of Chicago Rahm Emanuel. How true, especially as he proved his charisma and skill in the US elections last week.

On the night before the US elections, challenger Mitt Romney made a calculated decision that he would jet into three battle-ground states on Election Day for a last minute push for votes given the prediction that the final result will be a virtual toss up.

Obama, under equal if not more pressure in the stakes, had to weigh his challenger’s move and options. Should he also go out and campaign or…….?

He had in the previous election played basketball on Election Day and won. This was a good luck charm as superstitions go. Why risk the chances by not sticking to what had become the traditional Election Day basketball outing?

Whether he sings a song, hits baskets or campaigns he is known to be ‘cool’.

And so, a Presidential decision taken: He will play basketball! And by Election Day’s end, his team had won the match, and with his stunning acceptance speech the scoreboard sparkled: OBAMA WINS!

Joining Obama in what is called a pick-up basketball outing was the Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen of the Chicago Bulls who analysed the President’s game stating, albeit flatteringly I guess, how impressed he was with Obama’s ability to penetrate defences. “He is not an overly aggressive player. I thought the lanes opened up when Michael [Jordan] used to drive…I used to be like, Wow! But when I saw the President drive, I thought they were bringing the whole motorcade through the lane that was so wide.”

Obama’s sporting qualities seen

Tucker Max, who played pick-up basketball with Obama when he taught at the Harvard Law School, brought out the real character of the sportsman in Obama in a blog post: “I guess the thing that sticks out most about him is that he was always an adult. If there was a conflict on the court… he was always the voice of reason. He was an adult before he was a basketball player. He never got wrapped up in the outcomes of the game, like some people who play as if it’s life or death. He tried hard, but never crossed the competitiveness line; he was always under control. I can’t ever remember him rattled.”

There are many stories that Obama recalls in his best seller ‘Dreams from my Father’ that provides insights to the challenges that the young Obama faced while growing up in Hawaii.

Seeing Obama swimming stylishly, a tourist remarked to Obama’s grandfather.

“Swimming must just come naturally to these Hawaiians.” To which Obama’s Grandpa retorted “that boy happens to be my grandson, his mother is from Kansas, his father is from the interior of Kenya, and there isn’t an ocean for miles in either damn place!”

A natural sportsman

Obama was a natural sportsman… and a sport. Obama recalls “I could play basketball with a consuming passion that would always exceed my limited talent…. I had watched players [University of Hawaii basketball team] in warm ups, still boys themselves, but to me poised and confident warriors, chuckling to each other about some joke, glancing over the heads of fawning fans to wink at the girls on the sidelines, casually flipping layups or tossing high arching jumpers until the whistle blew and the centres jumped and the players joined in furious battle”. He goes on “I took my game to the university courts, where a handful of black men, mostly gym rats and has-beens, would teach me an attitude that didn’t just have to do with sport. That respect came from what you did and not who your daddy was. That you could talk stuff to rattle an opponent, but that you should shut the hell up if you couldn’t back it up. That you didn’t let anyone sneak up behind you to see emotions…. like hurt or fear—you didn’t want them to see.”

“And something else, too, something nobody talked about: a way of being together when the game was tight and the sweat broke and the best players stopped worrying about their points and the worst players got swept up in the moment and the score only mattered because that’s how you sustained the trance. In the middle of which you might make a move or a pass that surprised even you, so that even the guy guarding you had a smile, as if to say, “Damn…”

Picking of friends carefully done

Referring to the limitations and prejudices he faced Obama recalls “the principal difference between me and most of the man-boys around me—the surfers, the football players, the would-be rock –and-roll guitarists—resided in the limited number of options at my disposal. Each of us chose a costume, armour against uncertainty. At least on the basketball court I could find a community of sorts, with an inner life all its own. It was there I could make my closest white friends, on turf where blackness couldn’t be a disadvantage.”

And then Obama recalls of “the tennis pro who told him during a tournament that I shouldn’t touch the schedule of matches pinned up to the bulletin board because my colour might rub off; his thin-lipped, red-faced smile — “can’t you take a joke?”— when I threatened to report him.”

Presidents – a passion for sports

Over the years, putting petty prejudices aside, it’s fair to say that many a President of the United States of America have shown a passion for sport and tried to use their offices to promote sport as a key driver, and a way of life. Recall Teddy Roosevelt who promoted college football which is today a major national attraction; John Kennedy who sailed and played touch football; Bill Clinton, a golfer himself, who tried solve the Major Leagues baseball strike in 1995 and gave up – it being stated that the peace negations he was involved in Northern Ireland were probably easier than settling baseball disputes; and there was Richard Nixon who used ping-pong matches between U.S. and the Chinese stars to ease relations.

Whether as a student, a basketball player, a law professor, community worker, senator and now a two term President, the passion that Barack Obama continues to show in whatever he says and does must surely have roots in his sporting spirit where he rises above the fray and “connects” with, and commits himself to, the people he serves. Such ‘three point shooters’ who are also Presidents of Nations do not emerge easily in one’s generation. Barack Obama’s three point shot made history.