I want to look past the grief of the last 24 hours for a minute or two and talk about something pretty cool: How the Bulls got to hang with President Barack Obama at the White House yesterday. Obviously, this is an honor that isn’t normally accorded during the season to a team that’s only 26-32, but Obama — the “First Fan” if you will — is a Chicago guy, and he wanted to meet his team.
White House social secretary Desiree Rogers said that the idea for the chill session happened a couple of weeks ago when Obama was in Chicago playing basketball and heard the team would be playing the Wizards in Washington soon. (In fact, it appears Obama will attend the game tonight at the Verizon Center. How freaking cool is that?)
The President posed for pictures with a group composed of players, coaches, front office personnel and staff from the team — he asked to stand next to Ben Gordon because “‘Ben’s not that tall” — and was presented with the traditional team jersey with ”Obama” and number 44 on the back. He even chatted with the guys a bit before getting back to that whole “being leader of the free world” thing. (No word on whether the President and John Paxson got the chance to discuss a bailout on Kirk Hinrich’s contract or whether he instructed Vinny Del Negro to stop benching Derrick Rose in the fourth quarter. We can only hope…)
Said Derrick Rose: “It was a great experience. you’re nervous around a person of his stature and power, but he made us feel at ease. He was like one of the guys. He was laughing and joking with us and knew everybody on the team by name. ‘We toured the White House and took pictures with the president. [Assistant coach] Pete Myers gave me a copy of [Obama’s] book and he autographed it for me.
“I’m definitely reading the papers and online more often, and my Mom calls me a lot to talk about politics. She’s trying to make me more aware and involved, knowing that it will be good for me to really know what’s going on in the world. … He gives you hope. Just like no one thought he would become President, no one thought that I could grow up and become the first pick in the draft. I think it gives people everywhere a little extra hope.”
Added John Paxson: “Today was a very special day for the Bulls organization, and President Obama was extremely gracious to take the time to visit with us. Given the historical significance of his election, we felt very honored to be afforded this unique privilege.”