Thursday, July 16, 2009

Obama First Pitch: White House stages even a baseball pitch

It doesn't matter that Barack throws worse than a girl. Seriously. He does. But it doesn't matter.

What matters is to notice the staging. Been thinking, off and on, about what was and was not staged. Am I overly cynical about staging? No. I've been watching Barack a long time. It was ALL staged, and that sucks eggs. It's not sporting. This was a national occasion, and a leadership occasion. Just go out and throw the pitch like a sportsman and a leader.

I'm trying to say this: when people cheered Pres. Bush at a ballgame, they were cheering just as much or more for the United States of America: There's the President! Hooray United States of America! Conversely, the staging of "Barack!" is conducive to cheering for the wonderfulness of "Barack!"

The White House minders knew he would get booed. They knew he would throw worse than a girl. They did not want to hurt the "Barack!" brand*, so they heavily staged it.

He wore a White Sox jacket. They could blame the boos on the jacket, and they already have. The jacket was a boo-scuse.

He didn't carry a ball out of the dugout, as GWB used to. Instead, he made a special trip Stan Musial, who was sitting in a vehicle near home plate. Stan Musial handed him the ball. No Cardinal fan would boo Stan Musial. Stan was a boo-shield.

Standing just behind the plate, heartily endorsing Barack via body language and smiles: Bob Gibson, Ozzie Smith, Lou Brock, among a few other Cardinals greats. Boo-shields.

Catching the pitch: not a catcher, but Albert Pujols himself, the greatest Cardinal since Stan the Man, or maybe since Rogers Hornsby, or maybe ever. And also a wonderful human being. No Cardinals fan boos Albert Pujols.

Note: Pujols was not behind the plate, but rather straddling and slightly in front of the plate.

Then Barack threw his pitch worse than a girl. I have watched slo mo! He threw worse than an Iranian Policeman . The pitch landed exactly between the front-most chalk lines of the batters box, i.e. not the lines which run towards the pitcher's mound, but rather the lines which demarcate the front of the box. Had the pitch been 6 inches shorter, it would have landed in front of the entire chalked batters boxes. Pujols, in a crouch, had to step his left foot forward, and then lean forward and scoop it with the back of his webbing flat against the dirt. Pujols kind of flipped his glove down and flip-scooped it quickly, which gave the catch a kind of bounce, making it look like he might have caught it on the short hop, but he didn't. As he caught the ball, Pujols had to come forward out of his lean. He used his momentum to quickly stride towards Barack and hug him. It was a nice cover by Pujols.

Barack, naturally, then pumped his fist in satisfaction: Yes! I did soooo goood! Who you gonna believe? My fist pump or your own eyes? Obi Barack: This was not the weak pitch you think you saw. Supply side did not work for Reagan. Tax cuts did not work for JFK, Reagan, and GWB. Nuclear proliferation did not help bankrupt the USSR and win the Cold War. That was a coup in Honduras.

The next time someone catches a Barack pitch, you won't see a squat. The catcher will stand: perfectly balanced, in athletic position, on his toes, and ready to go in any direction. A squat is too risky.

And that was it. Barack glad handed a couple more people on his way mercifully out of there. He's less comfortable on a baseball field than a gay man at the Chicken Ranch. But the "Barack!" brand was protected, and that's the important thing.

A lot has been made of Fox Sports' weird camera close up of Barack: the close up prevented viewers from seeing Barack's toss. I suspect the White House demanded that camera shot. If Fox wanted the President on their telecast (and they got him in the booth for a half inning), then Fox had not much choice other than to go along. I've never seen that camera close-up for any first pitch, ever. Just as I've never seen an opposing team's jacket worn into a stadium for a first pitch. Just as I've never seen a first pitch person walk from the dugout towards home plate (to get the ball from Musial, then to schmooze awkwardly with Musial for 15 seconds), instead of directly towards the pitchers mound. Barack may as well have been teleprompted through each of the 90 seconds. The only thing he had to do on his own was throw the pitch. It, like much of his presidency and in fact much of his life, was weak.

Someone wrote that the guy driving Musial's vehicle hated Obama, and refused to look at him. That guy's probably Secret Service, and he doesn't know where to look. He can't look fully away from Obama and into the crowd, yet it's undignified for Secret Service to stare at POTUS. In all his training, he is taught to look away from POTUS.

OTOH, if that guy wasn't Secret Service, then that guy hates Obama's guts.

Yesterday, someone played a funny montage sequence of TV news types enthusiastically "reporting" Barack threw the pitch over the plate, and got the job done, and looked good out there. B/c I'm so accustomed to media covering for Barack, I'm surprised I got a laugh out of this montage, but I did.

It's not that it matters how Barack looked, and it's not that he was as uneasy as, well, if he were in a bowling alley. It is, rather, that I wish he would just act like a sportsman and like a leader. This is a national occasion. This is not a "Barack!" occasion. Ditch the boo-scuse Sox jacket, and ditch the boo-shield immediate visit with Stan Musial. Walk, or jog, like a sportsman, directly to the mound. Acknowledge the crowd. Throw the ball. Then shake hands all around. Shake hands with Stan Musial after - maybe share some popcorn. Stan's The Man.

Below, President Bush' first pitch at the 2001 World Series. Note, near the end, the chants of "USA!" That was a special night. In future, those who were not then adults will find it difficult to understand the adrenaline which was flowing through the nation during those weeks.

The adrenaline, I think, in addition to the grief and the shock, was heightened due to the unknown nature of the enemy. Why had they attacked us? Americans did not know, and it fueled our heightened adrenaline during those weeks. I did not know why they had attacked us, and I wanted to know. My search for the answer led me inexorably into the blogosphere. Today, most Americans have their own ideas about why the terrorists attacked us. On Sept. 11, 2001: the vast majority of Americans, including me, were perplexed.

*Liz Cheney:
"The Obama administration does seem to believe in another kind of exceptionalism -- Obama exceptionalism. "We have the best brand on Earth: the Obama brand," one Obama handler has said. What they don't seem to realize is that once you're president, your brand is America...."


Anonymous said...

GREG Vachel Cotharn! NOW you've done it! I am livid at your comparison of Obama (note I did not apply his title) to throwing like a girl! GIRL POWER RISE UP! I'm madder than hell and I don't have to take it anymore! I'll meet you at Angelo's BBQ anytime and show you how girls rule!

gcotharn said...

Would love to meet at Angelo's. Also, must defend myself: I said he threw "worse than a girl". I would never insult girls by saying they throw like Barack! That would be mean.