Obama Picks His First Bracket As A Former President


On January 20, 2017, as I watched the peaceful transition of power from one administration to another crazier one run by an angry clown, I was filled with sadness. Not just for the all the glaringly obvious reasons (xenophobia, heterosexism, a future filled with terrible healthcare bills) but also a million little things: like the fact that Barack Obama would no longer be President during basketball season.

President Obama’s love of basketball always made him feel extra relatable to me.  It was superficial, but it felt like we shared something; not only were we both Democrats, but we were both Bulls fans. Every season opener, every Christmas, when I turned on a game, I liked to imagine that the President was out there somewhere, watching along with me. From the beginning, basketball was always part of the Obama image; and, at no time was his love of the game more clear than during March Madness.
Every March, ESPN would invite President Obama to fill out his bracket on air; and almost every year, just like the rest of us, he would inevitably lose. Like many things during his final term, it became a regular part of life that I took for granted.
Last year, when I wrote “The Final Four: President Obama picks his last NCAA Bracket“, it had only just begun to dawn on me how much I’d miss having him as our Commander and Chief. And then, on November 9, everything began to feel far more real.
When Trump was sworn into office a few month later, it felt like we were watching a giant wave break over the entire Democratic Party. You could almost feel the undertow sucking away everything we had accomplished. As if suddenly our feet were swept from beneath us, we were under water and the surface seemed miles away. Two months later, the feeling’s still not gone away.
It often seems like Trump’s gone out of his way to make this transition as jarring as possible. So, when our new President refused ESPN’s invite to fill out an NCAA bracket, it went almost unnoticed. It was just another little reminder that Trump was different than his predecessor, that things were not the same – that they’d maybe never be the same…
Then, yesterday, something happened that I wasn’t expecting: Barack Obama released his first bracket as a “Former U.S. President”.
As far as brackets go it was unremarkable – once again, he’d picked North Carolina to win (as he has in 2008, and 2009 and 2012) – but this time, it felt like a breath of fresh air.
Sure, it was no longer on ESPN and it received far less critical attention, but it was still his bracket none-the-less. And this time, it meant even more, because it reminded me of the greatest lesson you’ll ever learn as a sports fan: there is another season after this one.
“Hope is the bedrock of this nation. The belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.” -Barack Obama