McGrath: Seahawks jersey a worthy addition to president’s wardrobe

May 21, 2014 

Dear Mr. President,

Thank you for taking the time Wednesday to meet the Seattle Seahawks. I don’t envy every aspect of your job, but greeting visiting championship teams at the White House must be one of those presidential perks — like 24-hour room service and the private lounge on Air Force One — that never gets old.

Your knowledge of sports helps make these occasions a treat for players, coaches and team executives. Some of your predecessors were not as adept.

During a visit by the Boston Celtics, Ronald Reagan once mispronounced the names of such legendary Celtics as John Havlicek and Bob Cousy. At least Reagan realized they had something to do with sports, which is more than can be said of Calvin Coolidge in 1925.

“Mr. President,” he was told, “this is Red Grange of the Chicago Bears.”

“Happy to know you,” Coolidge said. “I always did like animal acts.”

Then again, the NFL was but a fledgling operation in 1925. Today the league has gotten so big and powerful, it has visions of conquering Europe — a chancy endeavor, as history tells us, but who is going to tell the NFL what to do?

Anyway, the Seattle Seahawks are the NFL champions and, thus, champions of the most successful sports league in the world. You’ll enjoy their company, Mr. President. I don’t think fame’s sudden embrace of them has diminished their hunger to excel, but that’s merely a hunch based on the track record of coach Pete

Carroll.

Have you crossed paths with him? If not, here’s a bit of advice for the staffers who micromanage your busy schedule: Set aside 20 minutes Wednesday.

I don’t mean the 20 minutes typically spent for your remarks and photographs. I mean the 20 minutes it will take Pete to answer “How are you?” after you shake his hand.

You’ve already met Richard Sherman — I saw your impersonation of him at the White House Correspondents Dinner, where he was a guest — and I suspect there are some jokes still to be mined from his rant after the NFC Championship Game, which concluded with a fierce pronunciation of “L.O.B.,” an acronym for “Legion of Boom.”

(In case you’re looking for a one-liner, Mr. President, try this: “Richard Sherman, I understand your competitive passion was still burning during that postgame interview, but why did you mention L.L. Bean at the end of it?”)

Now, about quarterback Russell Wilson: He’s intrigued by your line of work. I’m not sure he has presidential aspirations, but if Wilson doesn’t end up as a senator or governor or big-city mayor — Seattle’s version of Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson — I will be surprised.

Running back Marshawn Lynch, on the other hand, likely won’t be going into politics. But keep him in mind, Mr. President, the next time you need to extricate a bad guy from a compound sealed in three layers of concrete.

The tradition of champions visiting the White House calls for them to offer their host an honorary jersey, say, or a team jacket. At the risk of getting too personal, Mr. President, I wonder about the sheer size of your sports-apparel closet.

Since your 2009 inauguration, you’ve received clothing bearing the logos of five NFL teams, five MLB teams, three NBA teams, four NHL teams, five NCAA men’s basketball teams, four NCAA football teams, three WNBA teams (including the Seattle Storm, in 2010), and three NCAA women’s basketball teams.

How much UConn stuff does one person need? Does the White House need to add a new jersey wing?

The Seahawks, I figure, will present you with a No. 12 jersey, representing the 12th Man. Seattle football fans, by the way, aren’t referred to as fans anymore. They’re called “Twelves,” and on Wednesday, you’ll be adopted as one of them.

That you were a resident of Chicago before relocating to the White House, that you are a longtime Bears fan, it doesn’t matter. You are an honorary 12. Welcome to the club.

One last tip: As you point out the Seahawks’ virtues Wednesday, don’t underrate their resistance to overthink and sweat the small stuff. The Hawks had two weeks to prepare for a Super Bowl played in the spotlight in the nation’s largest metropolitan market, and they prepared with an exquisite efficiency obvious from the first snap.

America’s Team? No, not actually. More like a team Americans can look at as a work-force model.

It’s difficult to exaggerate the talent of Pete Carroll, Mr. President. His philosophies about developing a sort of mental swagger — about winning forever — could apply to the challenge of overseeing a nation. Ask him about it.

Just make sure to allow yourself, like, five or six hours beyond the 20 minutes he takes to answer how he’s doing.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune

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