Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics President Obama has been widely criticized for not being combative enough. Commentator Frank Deford says we elected a basketball player, but ended up with a golfer.
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Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

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Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

Golf May Be Too Polite A Sport For Presidential Politics

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

President Obama recently returned from vacation. Commentator Frank Deford has some advice for the president for his next getaway.

FRANK DEFORD, BYLINE: There's been much criticism of the president lately, even within his own party, that he's too detached and withdrawn - not combative enough anymore. Listen, it's easy to explain it completely with a sports analogy. We elected a basketball president, but then we ended up with a golf president.

Golf is an internal game. Nobody is playing against you. Nobody is guarding you. But basketball - basketball is in your face one-on-one, combative to its core. Obama actually had a court built in the White House. And remember all those pictures of a few years ago of the president playing hoops, going all-out? Why, even after he became the most powerful man in the world, he suffered a split lip in a game that required a dozen stitches. Basketball is about slashing, dunking - crashing the boards. What is the one basketball term that most delineates the game? No harm, no foul, meaning challenge the limits. Check, poke, use just enough strategic contact.

That's how the man got to the White House - but golf? What do we hear? It's your honor. I'm away. We've halved the hole. Halved the hole? There's just no halving in politics - good grief. What is it about presidents and golf? Since William McKinley took it up in 1897, almost all of them have hit the links. Jimmy Carter was the last to stay off the tee. Democrats, Republicans - it doesn't make any difference. Would you ever guess which President played the most? That's cerebral college professor Woodrow Wilson. Scott Berg, in his wonderful biography of Wilson, says it was an absolute ritual with him. Most every day - breakfast, then Woody and the first lady would drive out to the club and get in nine holes - only then, treaties and vetoes and executive orders and stuff. Not even Ike or Clinton was as golf goofy as Wilson. Not even Obama, yet.

But here's a tip to the White House media office. Never, never again let the president be photographed in a golf cart. What is the wussiest item in all of sports? A golf cart - that electric chaise lounge - a movable divan. Could you ever picture Vladimir Putin in a golf cart? That nutcase in North Korea with the nuclear weapons - you ever see him riding in a golf cart? You think Angela Merkel poses in a golf cart? In a pig's eye.

But I'm telling the president, just stay completely away from golf courses and get back to your basketball court. Bring that ball up yourself, pass it, work that pick-and-roll, baby, swing to the hoop and never mind the guy in front of you. Just pretend it's that nerdy Mitch McConnell. Up for two - no harm, no foul. Once again then, hail to the chief.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Commentator Frank Deford - he plays on our court every Wednesday. It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm David Greene.

INSKEEP: He certainly doesn't drive a golf cart though. I'm Steve Inskeep.

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