So I happened to take in the Washington-Chicago game tonight only to find the president seated about 20 rows in front of me. (First clue something was up: lines to see the 13-44 Wizards take on the 26-32 Bulls.) Now, don't get me wrong, it was an absolute thrill to have Obama in the house. I haven't felt that much energy in the Verizon Center all year.
But, I have to say, it was also kind of ... stressful. A bit like having the cool kid in high school come over for dinner. Maybe it was where I sat, but I noticed I wasn't so much watching the game as watching Obama watch the game. As if the slightest Wizards miscue would forever sour him on our franschise. (As it happened, they delivered what a recent president would call a "thumpin'" to his hometown team.)
P.S. While I'm mixing presidents and basketball, allow me to submit my favorite quote by a player in years. It came from all-star forward Caron Butler after the Wizards won their first game under interim coach Ed Tapscott, who took over from Eddie Jordan earlier this season:
"Coach Jordan will be a lifelong friend and somone I communicate with for the rest of my life," Butler said. "To see him go, that was tough. That's why I didn't talk yesterday because it hurt but a[t] the same time, now that we got Obama on the sideline with us now, we're going to ride with it."
Obama? You mean Tapscott?
"Yeah, he's light-skinned. He has a law degree. He stands for change, he uses big words, he's new in the district and he's in control now, so shout-out to Obama. We won tonight so we have hope."
Update: One of my basketball-fan rituals is to read the story in the other team's hometown paper whenever the Wizards win. In recent years, this has been only mildly satisfying: The Wizards were a slightly above-average team, so a loss to them wasn't so surprising. But this year, with the Wizards aggressively competing for the league's worst record, the day-after accounts can be memorable. My favorite came after the Wizards inexplicably beat the Houston Rockets on their home court in December. The loss, made worse by the fact that one of Washington's two best players didn't even suit up, prompted a kind of existential crisis in Houston, faithfully captured by the Chronicle:
The Rockets took their worst loss of the season, falling 89-87 to the Wizards (6-23) with the sort of performance that inspired Rockets coach Rick Adelman to rip, “We got what we deserved.” ...
“We went out and played terrible. It’s the worst half of basketball we played since I’ve been here on both ends of the court..."
But today's report in the Chicago Sun-Times is also pretty great. The Bulls are much worse than the Rockets, but having the world's most famous basketball fan court-side seemed to make the loss equally devastating. Here's a typical passage:
Though Obama has inspired millions, that group apparently doesn't include the Bulls, who turned in perhaps their most uninspired effort of the season -- and that's saying something -- in a 113-90 loss to the last-place Washington Wizards (14-44).
''I'm speechless right now, honestly,'' Bulls guard Ben Gordon said. ''To come in here and lose to the Wizards by 23 points -- it's just inexcusable."