Newt Gingrich and others on the right, like Joe Scarborough, are trying out a new line: Barack Obama is too obsessed with basketball to be President. Is this harmless right-wing cant, or is it something more?
Gingrich, himself, said the following on the Hannity show:
You know, the president has this fixation with the Final Four. Spent time on ESPN giving us his version of what really mattered to him, which was the Final Four. I like basketball. I think the President knows more about it than I do.
Now, this seems to be the right wing grasping at anything with which to attack Obama, but to suggest that taking 5-10 minutes to fill out a bracket on ESPN is a "fixation" with basketball just strikes me as having racial overtones, along with the "I think the President knows more about it than I do." The "I think" is in the vein of speculation, and invites the audience to wonder why. There's no acknowledgment, here, that Obama does know more about basketball because he played it as a kid and as an adult, while Newt's only source of exercise is cheating on his wives.
Growing up in the suburbs, as I did, you definitely get the sense that basketball is coded as "black." This Sunday, I watched the ESPN documentary about the Michigan "Fab 5," and it brought to mind how teams like Michigan and UNLV from the early '90s, who played an up-tempo, in-your-face style of basketball, and made up of kids from the inner cities who weren't afraid to play a "playground" style, made certain older and whiter fans profoundly uncomfortable. (It no doubt escaped these fans' notice that Michigan and UNLV relied a lot more on ball movement and teamwork than their opponents, despite being seen as "selfish," because the players liked to dunk and trash talk.)
So, I can see how saying "Obama picking the final 4 when there's a crisis on" is bullshit, but in Newt's formulation, it comes across as "and this proves why we shouldn't have a black President." I'd see picking games as no better than a harmless distraction, and, if anything, the public benefits from having some "normalcy" in the White House when things outside are spiraling out of control. After all, we elected "No Drama Obama" over hot-head John McCain.
Newt and I both picked Duke, however. He's a fan, while I'm not. It's the Republican choice -- over-privileged and whiny. I think they'll win, though, because the ACC final against UNC shows them peaking at the right time. Like Newt, basketball isn't my sport, so take what I say about it with a grain of salt. (I'm athletic, just short.) But now I hate myself for it. (Like Obama, my picks are all chalk. So far I got Richmond over Vandy right for a 5-12 upset, but I had St. John's going to the elite 8.)
UPDATE: Newt's not close to being finished with this one.
I was, frankly, very disappointed that Sarkozy did not share with us his Final Four picks. And i think it's his failure to understand the Final Four that allowed him to focus on Libya . . . Clearly, if he had understood the American system he would have understood that his is not a good week to deal with Libya because this is the week to deal with Kansas, Ohio State, and you know things that were really important.
Sarkozy can be excused because both Lyon and Marseilles were eliminated from the European Champions' League last week. But who does he have between Chelsea / Manchester United in the round of 8?
Also, I just want to add that given that this week there were major budget cuts proposed by Gingrich's own party to the University of Michigan and the Pennsylvania State University system, this is a very good week to focus on colleges and universities. For those schools lucky enough to generate money from their athletic programs, that's money the GOP can't cut.