March 18th, 2009
04:30 PM ET
11 years ago

Politicos make their bracket picks as March Madness grips DC

 March Madness has hit Washington.

March Madness has hit Washington.

(CNN) - Most politicians are painfully aware that predictions can be a tricky business - but for one month a year, they throw caution to the wind.

March Madness has hit Washington.

President Obama, an avid basketball enthusiast, unveiled his Final Four picks Tuesday, choosing Louisville, the University of North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Memphis. His picks, which are relatively conservative, include three No. 1 seeds, and No. 2 seed Memphis.

In an interview that aired Wednesday on ESPN, the president filled out his basketball bracket, revealing what team he thinks will be cutting down the net at Ford Field: the Tar Heels, formerly coached by Obama supporter Dean Smith. The team was also his choice last year.

"I'm going with experience, and I think that [Ty] Lawson is going to be healthy. I think having an experienced point guard who can control the game and make free throws at the end, that's going to be the difference," Obama said. The North Carolina player is injured, with a broken toe.

"Now, for the Tar Heels who are watching, I picked you all last year - you let me down. This year, don't embarrass me in front of the nation, all right? I'm counting on you. I still got those sneakers you guys gave me," Obama pep-talked the team.

Andy Katz weighed in on the president's national champ pick on ESPN.com.

"President Obama made his picks as a sports fan, not as a politician," Katz said. "He was knowledgeable about the teams and was even up to date on the latest injuries involving the contenders. He was confident with his picks and delivered an on-camera pep talk for the team he picked to win it all. It was clear that he enjoyed filling out his bracket like the rest of America."

New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand was quick to express her approval of the president's prediction on Syracuse's chances. sending him a university T-shirt, and bumper stickers for the three other New York teams in the tournament.

Back on the presidential campaign trail in 2008, Obama announced his remodeling agenda for 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, which included plans to replace the White House bowling alley with an indoor basketball court, allowing him to honor his favorite pastime in the comfort of his own home.

And in February, the Chicago native invited the hometown Bulls to the White House for a tour of the residence. The team posed for pictures with Obama and presented the nation's 44th president with a personal jersey stitched with the number 44.

Republicans have a basketball jones, too. In an e-mail sent last week, Arizona Sen. John McCain invited his online supporters to join his Country First PAC basketball bracket group, where supporters can compare their picks to the former Republican presidential candidate's. The 2009 tournament bracket marks the third year McCain will participate in March Madness.

Conservative icon Newt Gingrich is getting in on the action, The former House Speaker will be sharing his bracket with other fans on Facebook.

Love of the game isn't limited to male politicos. Former Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin played point guard on her Wasila High School team, earning her the nickname of "Sarah Barracuda." After graduating from the University of Idaho in 1987, the Alaska governor worked as a sports reporter in Anchorage, before beginning her career in politics.

The GOP is getting in on the basketball action: The Republican National Committee has launched a Web page showcasing its own March Madness bracket pitting state against state in a regional showdown. The state with the most individuals signing on to represent them will be named national champion on April 7.

As the Big Dance gets underway, the political battle of the bracket is still up for grabs. And while the president's record on hardwood picks may be in question, he can claim bragging rights on the gridiron: he correctly called the winner of last year's Super Bowl: the Pittsburgh Steelers, owned by Obama supporter Dan Rooney.


Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (27 Responses)
  1. JJ12345

    Who cares

    March 18, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  2. tennisguypitt

    Come on people, he filled out the NCAA bracket. Cut him a break. He's working on a lot of things now, easy there.

    March 18, 2009 06:29 pm at 6:29 pm |
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