Barack Obama was a deprived child, and it shows. Born on an island in the middle of an ocean and raised in Indonesia, little Barack never had the opportunity to absorb the juice and electricity of America. He grooved on the evening call to Muslim prayer, which he called “the prettiest sound on earth,” but never learned the rousing words and music of “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.”
This was particularly evident the other day when he invited the Chicago Cubs, who defeated the Cleveland Indians in seven games last October to win their first world championship since 1908, to join him for a belated celebration at the White House. He reminded them, as any partisan fan might, that it took the Cubbies a lot longer to repeat such a championship than it did their crosstown rivals, the Chicago White Sox. He reminded them that he was a fan of the Sox, who play on the South Side of Chicago.
Indeed, Mr. Obama sometimes wears a White Sox cap on the links, and he told the Cubs that he had followed his team religiously, which is the only way to follow “the greatest game on dirt,” for many years. Then he went off for a softball interview at ESPN, where a reporter, with no intention of embarrassing the supposed fan-in-chief, asked him to name his favorite White Sox players. The president, with no teleprompter, was stumped for an answer.
Mr. Obama says he’s a Sox fan for the love of the game, but he might, like other Chicago pols, be a Sox fan because the Sox are the team of the family of Richard Daley, and every Chicago Democrat knows it’s not a bad idea to like what a Daley likes.
The last Chicago baseball fan to occupy the White House was Richard Nixon, who was the vice president when the late Sen. Everett Dirksen invited the 1959 World Champions to a Senate ceremony honoring the Sox. Mr. Nixon was there, and Jerry Holtzman, who worked for both the Chicago Sun-Times and the Chicago Tribune during a career of more than four decades, asked him who his favorite player was.
Mr. Nixon proceeded to run through the lineup of a Sox team from the ‘30s, citing the batting averages and the earned run averages of the players he admired most. Mr. Holtzman was taken aback at such total recall, and when he got to the office and his record books he checked out the vice president’s story. He learned that Mr. Nixon’s numbers were correct in all particulars.
That’s the difference between a fan and a pretender. Real fans know you don’t mess with baseball and particularly its particulars.