I’ve been a Phoenix Suns fan of varying intensity since I was seven years old. I’ve never been much of an athlete, but I enjoy watching sports from tennis to basketball. It thrills me to watch people who are among the best in the world at what they do, whether it’s Roger Federer, Peyton Manning, or Kobe Bryant.
But mixing sports with politics? Running an interview with President Obama during an NBA playoff game? No thanks.
So how does something like this happen? I guess you and the president just talk all the time, and he says “why don’t you come over with your TV crew?”
Marv Albert: He keeps calling! And after a while, it just gets annoying, you know?
No, we came up with the idea of doing this for a pregame show in the Western conference finals. They said yes right away. It was just a matter of trying to come up with a date. Because he’s obviously very busy, and I’m jumping back and forth between cities in the playoffs. So we finally settled on Friday, which worked out because there was a little bit of a three-day break. We did it on the basketball court, at the White House.
He was just … it was a great experience. He was tremendous. He knows his stuff. That’s apparent.
When I watch Steve Nash throw a pass from mid-court to a teammate who sinks a three, I could not care less who Nash voted for in the last Canadian election. Unfortunately, sports and politics do collide from time to time, to the detriment of both. A few weeks ago, the Suns decided to publicly oppose the new Arizona immigration law by wearing their “Los Suns” jerseys on Cinco de Mayo. Now, I don’t care if the Suns players oppose the law on an individual level. They can all take out an ad during the game explaining their opposition to the law, much like the Tim Tebow ad during the Super Bowl. I don’t care if they wear their Los Suns jerseys on Cinco de Mayo.
What I do care about is the Suns’ politicization of the game itself. Arizonans love the Suns, which has made the Suns one of the most valuable franchises in the NBA. Seventy percent of Arizonans also support the new immigration law. The split in public opinion does not lessen the acrimony and emotion on both sides. Now, instead of bringing all Arizonans together as we root against our longtime rival, the L.A. Lakers, many Arizonans feel insulted by their sports team. Among people I know, just rooting for the Suns now draws comments.
Had you ever met him before?
Albert: No I hadn’t. I was there once before. When I did the baseball pregame show at NBC in like 1988 it was arranged for me to do an interview with that famous left-handed first baseman from Yale, George Herbert Walker Bush. He was terrific. So, you know we did that. He was really on it, in terms of baseball. Obviously, they invested in the Texas Rangers, so that family has been around it.
But Obama, he really knew what he was talking about.
We did more than just basketball. Some political issues. There’s nothing about the health insurance or the economy, but we dealt with immigration policy in Arizona, and should sports teams be involved with political issues, and take stances. You know with the “Los Suns” jerseys, for instance.
Enter the great healer. Apparently deprived of media coverage, President Obama has given an interview to Marv Albert, bits of which were aired recently and the remainder of which will be aired on TNT during the pre-game show for Suns-Lakers playoff game tomorrow. In addition to discussing basketball, he will discuss the Suns’ position on the Arizona immigration law.
President Obama criticized the Arizona law in a press conference with Mexico’s president Felipe Calderon, which almost certainly has not endeared him to Arizona voters. And now he is appearing in the pre-game show for the Suns-Lakers game, which will doubtless revive many fans’ ambivalence toward the Suns for publicly opposing the law, and also further confirm in Arizonans’ minds that President Obama considers them a bunch of bitter, racist, gun-clingers.
Now, in Arizona, being called a gun-clinger isn’t an insult, but being called a racist carries the same sting that it does elsewhere in the country. So thank you, Mr. President, for once again mixing sports and politics. I certainly do not appreciate it.
I’m going to way jump the gun here, but remember when George W. Bush was president, there was talk that one day he might like to run baseball. Barack Obama wouldn’t be a bad NBA Commissioner, huh?
Albert: Probably! Yeah! I’m sure he’s thinking that he would prefer another term.
And thank you, Marv Albert, for mixing sports and politics.