Tuesday, January 20, 2009 by Dave Blum

In honor of today’s inauguration, I wanted to write something about Barack Obama, the “team player” … but really, his presidency is still a story to be told.  In a sense, all we can do is follow the “treasure hunt clues” of his life ; only by scanning the”scavenger hunt list” of his past accomplishments can we predict President Obama’s “team leadership potential”.

The clues are scattered all about, but a great place to learn about Obama-the-team-player is the current issue of Sports Illustrated (1/19/09). In Alexander Wolff’s interesting article titled “The Audacity of Hoops,”  the author describes the young Barry Obama’s obsession with basketball and the team building ideas he picked up from playing street ball.  Here are a couple of salient quotes:

Obama re. respect:  In pick up games, “respect came from what you did and not who your daddy was.  That you could talk stuff to rattle an opponent, but you should shut the hell up if you couldn’t back it up.”

Obama re. a season when he was benched:  “I learned a lot about discipline, about handling disappointments, about being more team-oriented and realizing that not everything is about you.”

Obama’s brother-in-law, Craig Robinson re. Obama’s basketball ethics:  “The game has to be played fairly or it breaks down. You practice an honor code, making your own calls and giving them up.  If Barack travels, he’ll give it up, not sneak it by you.  You play with hundreds of guys who’d never do that. It all gets back to how you tell a guy’s character on the court.”


From the SI article, we can gather at least three clues about the President:

1) He’s no idle boaster. Obama is committed to speaking only when he can back up his actions.

2) He understands that teams are about group performance, not individual playing time.

3) If Obama makes a mistake, he’ll admit it … even if those around him are less scrupulous.

As scavenger hunts go, I’m really looking forward to next four years.  President Obama looks like a treasure.