Watch the game, Mr. President, watch the game
David Brooks, the conservative New York Times columnist who these days is extreme in his political moderation, wrote recently that he will miss Barack Obama.
(I know, I’ve already set off the haters. How dare I write something that might be construed as complimentary toward the twice duly elected president of the United States? Others willing to read more than one sentence, stick with me; this column really isn’t about politics.)
Brooks noted that he disagrees “with a lot of Obama’s policy decisions. I’ve been disappointed by aspects of his presidency. I hope the next presidency is a philosophic departure.”
But, the columnist said, during the campaign to succeed him, “Many of the traits of character and leadership that Obama possesses, and that maybe we have taken too much for granted, have suddenly gone missing or are in short supply.
“The first and most important of these is basic integrity. The Obama administration has been remarkably scandal-free.”
Brooks held Hillary Clinton in contrast: “Hillary Clinton is constantly having to hold these defensive press conferences when she’s trying to explain away some vaguely shady shortcut she’s taken, or decision she has made, but Obama has not had to do that.”
Ultimately, Brooks asserts, “Imagine if Barack and Michelle Obama joined the board of a charity you’re involved in. You’d be happy to have such people in your community.”
I agree that Barack Obama is a decent man who has sought to comport himself with dignity and humanity.
(Yes, I know some of you have swallowed the propaganda that he is a Muslim socialist who’s trying to take your guns and ban Christianity. But somehow you still have your guns, your church remains open — and the annual deficit is dropping.)
Still, I completely lost respect for Obama during his visit to Cuba last week.
It’s not that he is opening relations with Cuba. After 50 years, our approach hasn’t ridded the island of the Castros, and it’s possible that U.S. influence in the coming years could help pave the way toward a post-Castro democracy.
But whether that happens or not, Cuba as it is governed now is a real country in our hemisphere. Not recognizing that is simply not recognizing reality.
We have normal diplomatic relations with a number of oppressive regimes, not the least of which is Saudi Arabia.
So I’m fine with Obama opening relations and traveling there.
The conservative media have pilloried the president for going to a baseball game with Raul Castro on the day of the latest terror attack in Belgium. This is off base. Much preparation went into the event, which, given Cuba’s love of baseball, was a centerpiece of the visit. This criticism asks the president to freeze in the face of global terror in moments when he can do little more than offer condolences. It ignores George W. Bush condemning a terror attack in Israel, then telling reporters, “Now watch this drive” as he teed off on a golf course.
However, despite Obama’s decency, despite the reasonableness of opening relations with Cuba, I was deeply disappointed by the spectacle the president made of himself at the ballgame.
He did the wave.
As a person who goes to baseball games to watch baseball, the wave is an embarrassing irritant incongruous with the rhythm of the game.
I became an anti-waver in 1991.
That June, I was in attendance at what turned out to be the last shutout of Nolan Ryan’s amazing career. (He had 61 shutouts, tied with Tom Seaver for seventh all time, and the guys above them played much earlier.)
The Texas Rangers were up 2-0 in the seventh inning. The White Sox had a runner in scoring position for the first and only time of the night. And Rangers fans did the wave.
Years later, I got to live in a big-league town, Detroit. I cringed for six summers at Comerica Park as oblivious, drunken suburbanites did the wave ignorant of what was happening on the field.
Seriously. If you want to stand up and flap your arms at random times, you don’t need to buy a game ticket and pay $8 for a beer. Just stay home and wave yourself silly.
I’ve been pondering whether things would be different under the next president but am not optimistic.
Hillary would have to focus group it and Trump would say, “We’ll do the greatest waves. You won’t believe it. It will be so great you’ll get sick of the wave.”
I’m already there, and I’m not alone. There’s a “Stop the Wave” website (dormant since 2014 — they couldn’t keep it going, which is a wave joke) and a #stopthewave hashtag on Twitter, which was appropriately harsh toward @Potus after the Cuban wave.
Complaining about this on Facebook last week, a Cubs fan friend of mine commented “South Sider,” noting Obama’s affinity for the White Sox.
Point taken. Maybe he’s not such a decent guy after all.
Mr. President, some advice: Watch the damn game.
Randy Essex is editor of the Post Independent.
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