Politics, Hoops, and the Politics of Hoops

March madness has descended over the globe, and we don’t mean the mess in Ukraine and the South China Sea and all over the Middle East and at the Federal Reserve Board or any of the rest of the world’s reigning insanity. We’re talking about the excitement attending the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s championship basketball tournament, a matter that is arguably of less importance but generates far more wagers and press coverage. At least the president’s priorities are in order, as he has once again found time in his presumably busy schedule to fill out his brackets.
The presidential picks have become a much-ballyhooed annual event over the past five years, and are always presented with appropriate pomp and circumstance on the almighty ESPN cable network. So far the president’s picks haven’t proved more prescient than any other office-bound amateur’s, but ESPN takes them seriously enough to have come up with some fancy “Barack-etology” graphics and a nauseatingly fawning program featuring the president himself, and the rest of the media are obliged to take note. No one ever notes that the president seems to be watching an awful lot of college basketball while the world comes apart at the seams and the economy continues to sputter, so the White House can assume with some confidence that enhancing the president’s basketball-watching regular guy image compensates for any damage to done to his reputation as a serious statesman.
Our main interest in the story was that the president did not predict our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers squad would prevail, despite their thus-far- unblemished record and number one seeding, but this did not surprise us. The ‘Shockers are lightly regarded by many experts because they play in the lightly-regarded Missouri Valley Conference rather than one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences, and their impeccable underdog credentials are offset by their undeniable political incorrectness. Our boys play in the Charles Koch Arena, named for the local half of the billionaire businessmen brothers who are the Democratic party’s favorite boogeymen, the defensive-minded coach makes his recruiting trips on corporate jets loaned by the local corporate jet-makers, another popular whipping post of the progressive movement, and the team is whole-heartedly embraced by the God-and-gun-clutching denizens of this old-fashioned town smack dab in the middle of that vexing red splotch on the electoral map. There’s no political point in the president pandering to Wichita or anywhere in Kansas except perhaps Lawrence and the more, ahem, “urban” portions of Kansas City, Kansas, so most ‘Shocker fans were not expecting his endorsement.
The president apparently prefers the Spartans of Michigan State University, which is also unsurprising. Michigan is a bluer state than Kansas, although the unions have recently been on the run there and it seems in danger of growing purple, and the Spartans are  a good team who also play in one of those fancy-schmantzy football-playing conferences. Just as the pridefully egalitarian types tend to insist on Ivy League credentials for high public office, they also tend to be downright elitist in their basketball prognasticating. While perusing the comment boards on the latest college basketball news the other day we saw a posting by a fellow we happen to know who was dismissing our beloved ‘Shockers as the equivalent of Cowley County Community College, and we found it amusing because we happen to know him as a self-professed Marxist professor of some sort at at some prestigious College Back East. He went to the University of Kansas, where James friggin’ Naismith himself once coached and Wilt Chamberlain once roamed the lanes and there are more storied basketball stories than you can bear to hear to a KU alum recount, and we think it a hoot that our friend learned both his Marxism and his basketball snobbery there.
As is our strict policy here, we offer no predictions regarding the outcome of anything. Such prudence ensures that we’ll have a better track record than the president, whose picks from the Baltics to the brackets have proved questionable, and we don’t claim his expertise in these matters. We certainly can’t say we have the spare time to devote to scouting every team in the field that the president apparently enjoys. Even so, we’ll admit to a faint hope that a politically incorrect underdog from that God-and-gun-clinging red splotch in the middle of the U.S.A. will do well.

— Bud Norman

One response

  1. On another message board someone said:
    “Obama may think he’s playing his mind game in major league style, but if that’s true he’s even more of a failure than I took him for yesterday. He’s not fooling me, nor is he fooling the American public, nor our allies (what remains of them), nor our enemies. “

    I think he’s wrong. Obama is doing what he’s been doing since 2008, running for election. Oh, sure, he’s term limited, but his entire presidency has been to pretend that he’s not really involved with the government. He’s the one who reads about the actions of the government in the papers. He’s the one who refers reporters to secretary of this or secretary of that when asked about policy. He’s the one who gives speeches about what’s wrong with the country as if he has not been in office for the past five years. So ignoring what’s going on in Ukraine is perfectly in line with his pattern of action.
    He’s also aware his base – and that includes both the, ahem, “urban” underclass, the press and the denizens of academia – doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Crimea, Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt or any other foreign activity. They care about government benefits like food stamps, they care about funding for ever more expensive education, and they care about attracting an audience for their shows (which explains CNN’s wall-to-wall coverage of the missing airliner). And they care about who’s going to win the Final Four.

    So Obama plays to their interests. And if it means that Putin re-establishes the Soviet Union while Obama plays to his base, that’s OK with him. The US isn’t going to be invaded during his term and meanwhile he’s got free government housing, his own fleet of 747s, an unlimited expense account and the press, academia and the support of superannuated teeny boppers who still think he cares about them. They actually believe he wants to take care of these issues because that’s what they expect a president to do. Even after five years they will still refuse believe the evidence that’s right before their eyes. They will go to their graves denying the evidence that the Obama presidency is just a great benefits package for him and his wife. And. That’s. It. Period.

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