by Suzie Raven*
Senator Barack Obama believes in providing more funding for public schools while demanding more accountability, working towards energy independence, and that the University of North Carolina will win the NCAA mens' basketball tournament.
A historic presidential campaign took on a new twist when Sen. Obama (D-IL) threw March Madness into the mix. He explained his bracket picks this week on the morning radio show for 850 The Buzz (WRBZ-AM), located in the Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill area. Some wonder if he is trying to win votes before the North Carolina primary on May 6th, or earn the favor of John Edwards. Former Senator Edwards of North Carolina has not endorsed a candidate, but has a full basketball court on his property with a huge UNC logo in the center. One commentator noted that Obama didn’t pick one of the tournament’s Pennsylvania schools, such as Pittsburgh or St. Joseph’s, before that state’s critical primary on April 22nd. As the top tournament seed, UNC is a much more obvious choice than any of the Pennsylvania schools.
I would like to think Obama picked UNC because he believes in their fast break, not because he hopes to gain superdelegates. However, a presidential candidate with no ulterior motive – or at least without consideration of the impact on his campaign – would be asking too much. It’s a smart move on his part. Obama is obviously not claiming that his time in the Senate makes him an expert on college basketball, but talking about it helps the average voter identify with him. March Madness speaks to a much wider audience than the effect of interest rates on the mortgage crisis.
As usual, showing his human side sets Obama apart from Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY). She said she would defer to her “basketball advisor” (her husband). She passed up easy choices in number 2 seed Georgetown, her husband’s alma mater, and Pittsburgh, considering she was in Lancaster, PA when asked. Basketball advisor?
In the grand scheme of things, the Iraq War is more important to our country than who wins the NCAA basketball championship. Still, Obama knows that if you want to catch people’s attention, talk about what interests them. I have no doubt that more Americans filled out a tournament bracket than can tell you about the latest clash between Iraqi troops and Shi'ite militias.
(The University of North Carolina Tar Heels beat Mount St. Mary's 113-74 in a first round match-up, Friday, March 21. UNC meets Arkansas in Raleigh, NC in the second round of the tournament, tomorrow, Sunday, March 23.)
*Suzie Raven is a graduate of the University of North Carolina.
(In the photo, Barack Obama is pictured in the center of his high school junior varsity basketball team at the Punahou School in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1977. School yearbook photos, such as this one, are generally regarded as part of the public domain.)
National Collegiate Athletic Association
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by Suzie Raven*