Monday, April 20, 2009

Obama wants to show off his Sox

It’s not at all unusual for political people to want to make appearances with athletes – particularly professional ones.

In fact, there are times when the government officials we elect to do “the people’s business” go all goofy when they’re in the presence of a ballplayer.

BUT IT USUALLY takes a championship ball club of some type to warrant a trip to the White House to meet the president. It doesn’t have to be a pro championship – remember the Northwestern University lacrosse team that created a stir when some of its members wore “flip flops” to their appearance with George W. Bush.

The idea of giving a White House tour to every sports team that just happens to be passing through the greater Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area just isn’t done. Until now, that is.

For it turns out that the Chicago White Sox will get a White House tour (their first since early 2006 when their World Series-winning team got to meet with Bush) on Monday. That’s what they get for being the “favorite” team of President Barack Obama.

With the White Sox making their only trip to the Washington area this week for the 2009 season, officials decided this was the perfect chance for the president and his aides (many of whom are merely doing a D.C. stint during their Chicago-oriented lives) to turn into the equivalent of 10-year-old boys who meet some ballplayers.

THE IRONIC PART is that officials were not sure if Obama himself would be able to show up for the event. After all, he just got back from a few days in Latin America doing business that tries to improve the United States’ relations with our hemispheric neighbors.

A part of me would hope that Obama has more important things to catch up on in his first day back at work in the White House than shooting the breeze with manager Ozzie Guillen or having his picture taken with outfielder Jermaine Dye.

But when it comes to Obama showing off his Chicago ties, it won’t shock me if he manages to break away from business for a few moments. Will we get some sort of photograph of Obama at his Oval Office desk, with the White Sox gathered around?

It won’t shock me in the least.

WHAT I’M INTERESTED in seeing is how the White Sox ballplayers themselves react to this appearance, which is causing them to give up what would otherwise be a day off in between their successful series winning three of four games against the Tampa Bay Rays and what they hope will be a couple of wins against the Baltimore Orioles.

Most ballplayers I have ever met are usually self-absorbed about athletic matters – giving little thought to the rest of the world.

While I don’t expect any of them to deliberately snub Obama or try to make a mini-protest while at the White House, it wouldn’t shock me if a ballplayer or two said he needed to catch up on sleep and decided to stay in his Baltimore hotel room – rather than make the bus trip to the District of Columbia for the private tour.

I have to wonder if the ballplayers who were with the White Sox back in the spring of 2006 when the team played the Los Angeles Angels at their suburban Anaheim stadium and got to visit the Playboy Mansion remember that day more fondly than they ever will Monday’s activities.

SEEING HUGH HEFNER’S then-trio of girlfriends lounging around the pool with a lot of other women is bound to catch their attention span more than seeing the office where Rahm Emanuel works.

And even if they get into the Oval Office, it is more likely to be a big deal for Obama than the individual athletes.

I’m sure there’s a part of Obama that would have loved to have taken the team up on its offer to have him throw out the ceremonial “first pitch” on Opening Day April 6. It would have made the White Sox’ season starter one of the more unique openers in Major League Baseball.

Instead, only hard-core White Sox fans of a certain age (50ish) could appreciate having Billy Pierce do the honors – he and current Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle have started more Opening Day games (seven each) than any other Sox pitchers in the team’s 109-year history.

AND NOW, OBAMA will be able to say he had his “White Sox” moment for the season, since there’s a very good chance that he won’t be able to make it out to the ballpark for any actual games this season or the next three (seven, if the nation’s electorate decides in 2012 to pick up his four-year option for another term).

So what will be the highlight of the White Sox doing the White House?

Will we get a ballplayer engaging in witty repartee with the president? Will one of the Sox get a bit klutzy and manage to break some antique that belongs to the American people?

Or will Ozzie manage to get into the Oval Office and have his picture taken at the president’s desk? Just think of how many shudders that image would cause all around the globe if Guillen’s sense of gab were to be put in a position of national authority?


EDITOR’S NOTES: If only the American League still had a team in Washington, it ( wouldn’t require using a trip ( to Baltimore to schedule a visit with the president.

The White Sox like to boast a bit about Barack Obama’s willingness to be seen wearing ( a White Sox cap.

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