This is President Barack Obama’s favorite time of year, sports-wise. The Leader of the Free World no doubt is keeping his eyes on important matters both foreign and domestic.
But he’s also keeping tabs on the ACC, Big East, Big 10, Big 12, SEC, Pac 12 and maybe even the Ivy League as those conferences wrap up their championships and winning teams await berths in the NCAA Division I men’s championship tournament, a.k.a. March Madness.
Obama is a stone-cold bracketologist basketball junkie who regularly puts his predictions to paper – he shares it with ESPN – on which team he thinks will successfully negotiate its way through the 68-team tourney and win the national title.
But a president who usually talks more hoops than hockey couldn’t resist going frozen pond on new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he visited the White House for an official visit last week.The president bragged about which team is the reigning National Hockey League champion.
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks are Stanley Cup champs, but Trudeau reminded Obama that Canadian imports like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp were key components to Chicago’s Cup runs.
And the prime minister and citizens of the Great White North weren’t shy about pointing out which country has more Olympic hockey gold medals.
It’s interesting that Obama engaged in hockey trash talk with Trudeau. The president hasn’t attended a Washington Capitals game since entering the White House, according to CBS News White House correspondent Mark Knoller, who maintains an authoritative record of presidential activities.
Throw out the first pitch at a Washington Nationals game? Certainly. Take in NBA Washington Wizards or WNBA Washington Mystics matches? Yep. Attend George Washington University and Georgetown University hoops contests? You bet. Make a trip to the Verizon Center to catch Alex Ovechkin’s Capitals? Nyet.
“Well, the President is not a regular viewer of the sport,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters last month. “I think even casual fans of hockey can appreciate, again, both the skill and athleticism that’s required to engage in that sport, but also appreciate how exciting playoff hockey is, and that brand of hockey is something that I think causes television ratings to spike in playoff time for hockey.”
Capitals and NHL officials had hoped that Obama would break his absence streak for the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic when his hometown Blackhawks faced the Capitals at Nationals Park, but no dice.
Frustrated by the no-show president, the Capitals fan site Russian Machine Never Breaks wrote Obama a letter in 2013 imploring him to venture down to Washington’s Chinatown and attend a game.
The letter was part of a petition drive to get Obama to “Barack the Red,” a take on the Capitals’ “Rock the Red” motto.
“Right around the time President Clinton attended a Caps game, he had eliminated the budget deficit and projected a surplus for the first time in decades,” the Russian Machine Never Breaks editors wrote to Obama. “And watching the officials loosely interpret the NHL rulebook might be a great chance to refresh your Constitutional law background.”