Or was it just mostly chalk? Did he not stray too far from chalk, or did he go with the chalk all the way?
Opinions on this subject were all over the news today. But what did it mean? Were they talking about our president's sometimes-professorial demeanor? Was he pale with rage at the AIG bonuses?
Those of you know who know the lingo of sports betting will recognize that the issue was the president's tendency to go with the favorites in filling out his picks for the NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament. (In another example of emergent technical terminology, a completed set of tournament picks is known as a "bracket", and all over the country, people are filling out their brackets and submitting them to office betting pools or various higher-stakes entities. You can fill out your own bracket interactively at the New York Times in order to win an Amazon Kindle, for example.)
The Staten Island Advance headlined its (AP) story "All chalk on Obama's tourney bracket". But Newsday's hed was "Barack Obama goes mostly chalk with NCAA bracket". Dan Shanoff in the WSJ's Daily Fix says that "President Obama didn’t stray too much from the chalk with most of his picks", and specifically "went with the chalk all the way" in the Midwest — "not a single upset". Shanoff's comment:
Audacity of upsets: None. (With all due respect, Mr. President: Boo!)
A bit of poking around on the web turns up some of the expected Runyonesque combinations (these are not commenting on the presidential bracket, and the last one is not even about basketball):
When in doubt, go chalk city.
West Virginia is a chalk-buster.
Lawyer Ron won the Rebel, but none of my other chalk locks won.
Meanwhile, the president's first pick (Alabama State over Morehead State in the play-in) turned out to be wrong — but that was one of the cases where he strayed a bit from the chalk, since Morehead was favored by 3 points. Perhaps he was swayed by the unusual name of Alabama State's center, Grlenntys Chief Kickingstallionsims Jr., the only 7'1" Navajo in the tournament.
The president's NCAA bracket fulfills a campaign promise. He filled it out for ESPN's SportsCenter show, where Andy Katz is a basketball analyst:
Katz interviewed Obama last October for a story about the president's brother-in-law, Oregon State basketball coach Craig Robinson. After the interview, Obama invited Katz to play in a pickup basketball game on Election Day in Chicago, and he did.
Katz extracted a promise from Obama that if elected, the new president would reveal his NCAA picks to ESPN when the pairings were announced in March.
"They stayed true to their word and didn't hesitate to get it done," Katz said.
Obama's approval rating remains high with Katz:
"It was an educated bracket," Katz said. "He knew what he was doing. It wasn't some random kind of pick. There were no political favors or anything like that."
That's a relief. The last thing we need right now is Ken Starr looking into allegations of campaign contributions traded for NCAA bracket choices.