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Roger I. Abrams

Roger I. Abrams

Posted: February 27, 2010 01:20 PM

Hoops for Health

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You may have heard that the Mayor of Springfield, Domenic Sarno, has proposed a game of basketball between President Barack Obama and Senator Scott Brown. "There are many charities in Springfield that would benefit greatly from the money this type of event would raise," Sarno suggested. (Actually, the City of Springfield, Massachusetts could use all the money that was brought in.) Early indications from both camps are "Game On!" We will have to see whether the schoolyard hoops actually take place, but the contest portends well for the nation and the viewing public. C-SPAN and ESPN would, of course, televise the event. Fox News would only show highlights of Brown and MSNBC would have slow-motion of the President's dunks. (Keith Olbermann would do the play-by-play.)

President Obama loves the game as much as most Americans. Created in Springfield in 1891 by a Canadian, Dr. James Naismith, the sport was designed as a way to keep his students at the YMCA school entertained during the long winter. His game has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, the second most popular sport after soccer. While basketball values height, even the smallest guard can make a difference from the outside.

Obama thought of himself as a three-point shooter from the outside when he took on his fellow Democrats and then the Republican duo of McCann and Palin to win the presidency. He was a fresh voice of reason on critical issues. After two terms of Bush-isms and neo-con policies, the public responded. He actually made people feel optimistic, although the reality was dire.

Scott Brown showed up at the right time. The electorate seemed angry that Mr. Obama had not fixed everything immediately and the economy remained in the tank. Some commentators have attributed Brown's victory in the Massachusetts Senate race to the tea baggers, who were nowhere to be found during the campaign. I think he did a great job of picking his opponent. Brown had an easy match-up against Martha Coakley, as it turned out.

There ought to be some side bets on this basketball game. If Obama wins, Brown would be required to vote for health reform. He knows he needs to vote that way in any case if he intends to represent the Commonwealth in Washington for longer than two years. This way he can tell his constituents that he had to vote for the health plan because he is a man who keeps his promises and pays off on his bets.

Obama, on the other hand, were he to lose at hoops, has to promise not to campaign against Brown when he is up for re-election. Despite his failure to pull Coakley out of her own mess in January, Obama remains a powerful force in Massachusetts. That smile alone is worth 10% of the vote. If he were to lose by more than five points, let's say, he would also promise not to send in Michelle.

The Springfield one-on-one would be a welcome diversion after Thursday's scrum on health care at Blair House. "You're bad," said one side. "No, you're bad," said the other, "and so is your mother." It might have been political theater, but it was a bad movie. All the lines were rehearsed and restated. Now you know how frustrating it must be to be in Congress. How can you compromise with someone who is writing graffiti on your office wall?

It might be better if the Dems and the Reps played five-on-five. I can see that small, but swift, Rahm Emanuel, trying to steal the ball from John McCain, who still thinks the campaign is on. Nancy Pelosi would be one tough cookie under the basket. Elbows, elbows. Sarah Palin would write the plays on her left palm. Senator Jon Kyl from Arizona would be in charge of garbage time. He would fit right in.

One problem would be getting some neutral referees. Everyone in DC seems to be partisan. Naturally, I would recommend experienced neutrals from the National Academy of Arbitrators, but their average age is about 66. If they do serve, there should be plenty of substitute refs available and a defibrillator.

Springfield was also the birthplace of amateur college sports. The first intercollegiate rowing contest took place on the Connecticut River in 1852, between Harvard and Yale. (Harvard won, but it used an ineligible graduate as the coxswain.) If Obama and Brown were to take to the river, that would obviate the need for a neutral ref.