Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Election Day Basketball: White House Chef Sam Kass Joins President Obama For Good Luck Game

Hoops and change with Chicago Bulls Scottie Pippen and Randy Brown, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Reggie Love...
President Obama played a game of good luck hoops in Chicago on Tuesday afternoon, an Election Day and primary day tradition that began during his 2008 campaign.  Joined by a couple of basketball stars, close friends and staff, including White House Assistant Chef and Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives Sam Kass, the President's highly competitive stress reliever started shortly after 1:00 PM and lasted close to two hours.  It was at the Attack Athletics facility on W. Harrison St., located on Chicago's West Side.  Kass, in orange, above, was on the President's team, which--good luck indeed--won, and also included former Chicago Bulls star Scottie Pippen.

The game has turned into a superstitious touchstone for the President:  He didn't play basketball on the day of the 2008 New Hampshire primary, and Hillary Clinton won in a surprise upset.  Kass, a frequent golf partner for the President, was a college baseball star who once aspired to the Major Leagues, and he is still extraordinarily fit (in this interview, Kass talks about competing against his boss).

The President's team also included Alexi Giannoulias, a finance executive who is a former Illinois state treasurer who ran for the US Senate in 2010.  Giannoulias not only tweeted details about the game, but also dished to pool; the White House released few details other than names of the players. 

The game had four 12-minute quarter with two teams of five players each--including former Bulls player Randy Brown, and First Lady Michelle Obama's brother, Craig Robinson, who is the head men's basketball coach at Oregon State University.

The President "played very well," said Giannoulias.  The Commander in Chief served as both player and coach for his team, and they triumphed  by "like 20" points, according to Giannoulias, with a score of "like 102, 105, 108 or so to 80-something."

Referees were brought in to call fouls and each team had substitutes, though Giannoulias did not know exactly how many.

“It was a lot of fun," Giannoulias said.  "We won. I scored more points than Scottie Pippen, which was my dream come true."

Giannoulias said he scored 32 points, while Pippen scored 21 points.

On the opposing team were Reggie Love, the President's former bodyman and a star forward while in college at Duke--the Blue Devils won the NCAA championship with Love in 2001--and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who also played college ball. 

 On Twitter, Giannoulias wrote "What a day! "Coach Obama" coached us to victory! Great win, way to play, Pip!"

Before that, Giannoulias announced a partial team lineup, tweeting "Okay, good news: Pippen and B.O. are both on my team! Reggie, Sec Duncan- here we come..."

Also playing in the President's game were close friends Mike Ramos and Marty Nesbitt, CEO of Parking Spot.   Both have traveled on the campaign trail with the President in recent weeks.

News photographers were not permitted in to film the action.

Earlier on Tuesday the President visited a field office close to his Hyde Park home, and made calls with volunteers.  He also did a series of radio and TV interviews.

On Tuesday evening, before an Election Night Watch Party with 10,000 supporters at McCormick Place, the President will have dinner with the First Family and friends, according to the White House.

First daughters Sasha and Malia were flying into Chicago after school with their grandmother, Mrs. Marian Robinson. Joining the First Family for dinner will be Craig Robinson and his family, along with the President’s sister, Maya Soetoro-Ng and her family. They will also be joined "by a host of nieces and nephews." 

Giannoulias' tweet fest:

*White House photo