With Libyan dictator Moammar Khadafy killing rebels who are attempting to overthrow one of the world’s most nefarious regimes and Japan on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe, many pundits are furious that President Obama has focused on anything other than the crises in the Middle East and Asia this week.
On Tuesday President Obama taped a segment with ESPN, which aired today, during which he made his selections for the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. I’m not disappointed that the president – a basketball fan – did what millions of Americans will do this week, namely, waste time at work. In this respect, he is a true man of the people. I’m disappointed in his actual picks.
All No. 1 seeds?
Really, Mr. President?
The president who promised hope and change has filled out men’s and women’s brackets utterly lacking in hope and change. He has the favorite winning each region in both the men’s and women’s tournaments. After the opening round of games, the president picked only four total upsets in the rest of the men’s tournament.
Where is the belief in the little guy when your bracket does not have a team higher than a 5 seed in the men’s Sweet 16 and none higher than a 3 seed in the Elite Eight? The president’s idea of an upset is 12 seed Richmond over 5 seed Vanderbilt in the first round, which, as the Harvard College Sports Analysis Collective concluded this week, actually has a 50/50 shot of happening. It’s hardly a risk.
The president’s bracket looks like my mom filled it out.
The president’s selections for the NCAA Tournament Final Four further reveal what many voters have realized – rather than acting as an agent for real change, President Obama is a firm believer – in most cases – in maintaining or enhancing the status quo.
Goldman Sachs is a 1-seed in the world of finance, so it gets a bailout. General Motors is a 1-seed in the world of automotive manufacturers, so it gets a save from the government. Unions are a 1-seed in Democratic Party fundraising, so they are catered to. Ally Hosni Mubarak was a 1-seed in the Middle East, where the people toppled him in a 16-seed-over-1-seed upset while the U.S. swallowed its whistle.
It’s almost as if the president believes that No. 1 seeds Ohio State, Pitt, Kansas and Duke are too big to fail.
President Obama’s 2011 Men‘s NCAA Tournament selections on ESPN
Even the Sweet 16 – the dizzying high point of an unpredictable sporting event – is a predictable nod to entrenched power. In the Southwest, the president has the 1-4 seeds (Kansas, Notre Dame, Purdue, Louisville) advancing. In the East the president also has the 1-4 seeds (Ohio State, North Carolina, Syracuse, Kentucky) advancing. In the Southeast, the 1-3 and 5 seeds (Pitt, Florida, BYU, Kansas State) advance. Sorry, 4-seed Wisconsin, it’s just not your month. In the West, the president has 1-3 and 5 seeds (Duke, San Diego State, Connecticut and Arizona) advancing. Sorry, No. 4 Texas, Arizona is a swing state.
The president chose Kansas over Ohio State in the final. It’s a reasonable prediction. I have Ohio State over Pitt in my final. But how the president arrived at this final – from an analysis standpoint – was predictable, safe and even boring.
I’m glad the president is a sports fan. It tells us something about him that we might not get from his spokespeople or the meandering manner in which he addresses questions without actually answering them. I can understand a sports fan. If I saw the president’s bracket, and I didn’t know who filled it out, I would say that the entrant was someone who did not want to be embarrassed by his selections, someone who was playing not to lose, instead of playing to win. I would say that this person knows a little about sports, but not enough to win the office tournament, because there is no risk. It is not bold.
Where is the Audacity of Hoops?
(Joe Donatelli is Senior Editor at Made Man. E-mail him at jdonatelli [at] breakmedia.com.)