5 Things We Learned About Barack Obama’s Sports Fandom From Bill Simmons’ Podcast

  • Dan Fogarty

Grantland’s Bill Simmons recently sat down with Barack Obama, noted sports fan and President of the United States, to do a podcast that he’s wanted to do for some time. In addition to learning that he knew about Jeremy Lin before anyone else, we also got an insight into what kind of sports fan Obama is. Here are the five most important things we learned about POTUS’ fandom.

1. He thinks a four-team college football playoff system is a step forward, but isn’t enough.

Obama: Well, I’d rather see it eight teams, but four is a good place to start. I think that gets us on the right trend. Nothing is more frustrating than at the end of the season, nobody knows who won. And what, there is some poll? Coaches make a decision? Nobody knows what that means.

2. He doesn’t know what to do about concussions in football. Obama cited the speed and size of the modern football player as making it tough to police head injuries.

“Now, what, they just had the Combine and they’re talking about some guy who is like 340, who runs a 4.8 — a three-foot vertical. And I don’t know what you do if a guy like that hits you.”

(The player he’s most likely referring to is Dontari Poe, a 346-pound defensive tackle from Memphis who ran a 4.87 40-yard dash at the Combine and who is, yeah, a beast.)

3. He thinks George W. Bush’s post-9/11 first pitch at the 2001 World Series was unbelievable. “Unbelievable pitch. Right down the middle. And huge credit for that. I give that guy a lot of props for that one. (Simmons: “And I think Jeter said to him before the game, ‘Don’t screw this up,’ or something like that.”) That’s exactly what he said. He saw him behind the bullpen and said, ‘Don’t screw it up.’ And he didn’t.”

4. He’s a homer. We had our suspicions, but the podcast just confirmed it: Barack Obama is a homer for Chicago-based sports teams. He’s convinced that the Bulls are going to win a championship while he’s still President (which, according to him, is another five years), and welcoming the ’85 Bears to the White House was one of his happiest sports-related moments. Again: not surprising, but Barack Obama’s Chicago sports homerism is now on the record.

5. He thinks Blake Griffin could become the best power forward of all time. Obama talked about a phone call he had with Clippers guard Chris Paul shortly after a fundraiser, and the conversation quickly turned to Griffin.

And I said, man, Blake Griffin is unbelievable, and you guys seem to be really clicking. I said, the only thing is you got to tell Blake to just take that 12-, 15-footer when he gets it because he’s got a good stroke, but he always looks like he’s hesitating a little bit because he wants to go inside. And if he starts getting that shot like Karl Malone, he’ll be unstoppable.

According to Obama, if Griffin developed that mid-range game, he could be the “best power forward ever.” Also: it’s pretty cool to just be able to pick up the phone, call Chris Paul, and give your input on the NBA team he plays for. The perks of being a sports fan POTUS, I guess.