Barack Obama is a recognized sports fan. We know about his basketball, and then there was this recent article about Obama's fantasy football team, written by Rick Reilly. The article itself, like most of Reilly's stuff, was really about Reilly--after all the column is called the Life of Reilly--but it also revealed another heretofore unseen aspect of Obama's personality.
S E M I O B A M A
Friday, October 31, 2008
The article revealed directly a least one part of Obama that only gets displayed indirectly most of the time--his inherent American masculinity. In this case, however, it's a particular kind of masculinity, the sports geek; his knowledge of fantasy football makes him part the growing legion of American men who love both sports and numbers. Combine this with Obama's relationship with basketball, his appearance on the cover of Men's Health, his smoking habits, his hiring of a former sports player and academic as an aide, (not to mention his poker playing) and you have a man who can move in many different circles of masculinity, seemingly all very easily.
But back to fantasy football. It's a sport where people pretend to own teams; they draft players, often pretend to pay them, and then compete against other teams. It's becoming more and more popular, with almost every sports website sponsoring a game. There is also fantasy baseball, basketball, golf, horse racing, hockey, and NASCAR. Being successful depends on a laser focus on numbers and predictions based on numbers.
The link between masculinity and geekdom has only blossomed in the last few decades, with technology nerds becoming kings of the universe, and more specifically, to this post, geeky sports nerds being hired as the cool kids. That's why it's entirely appropriate that Nate Silver, the Baseball Prospectus writer, is this election's geek sensation; his FiveThirtyEight.com, a highly technical but eminently readable guide to election polling, is the go-to site for those of us who are geeked out on polls.*
That somehow Obama's connection to Fantasy Football makes him cooler is of some consequence to those of us who have had to explain to friends and romantic partners why we are spending hundreds of dollars and hours on a game with little chance of making any of that back.
More importantly for this election, it probably means that Obama reads FiveThirtyEight.com and other geeky blogs; this year, politics is the new fantasy sport...
*I am glossing over the differences between geek and nerd. See Mental Floss's take.