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In this inauguration week, I have three words of advice for President Bill Clinton. When some jock-sniffing aide suggests you invite the Super Bowl winners to the White House, Just Say No! Don't do it. Pocket veto, baby. Ignore, ignore, ignore. And that goes for the NBA champs, too. (Michael Jordan wouldn't come anyway, the ingrate.) Same for the Stanley Cup winners, the WBC heavyweight titleholder, the NCAA women's volleyball champs, the Little League World Series victors and all Olympic medalists in 1994 and '96. No, no, a thousand times no.
The presidential gesture of honoring sports champions, if it was ever anything more than a politically manipulative photo op, has long since lost its sincerity. Let's put this unseemly ritual to rest.
Where is it written that a World Series ring brings with it an automatic confab with the leader of the free world? Who started all this nonsense, anyway? I'll tell you who started it. Richard Milhous Nixon, who in 1971 believed that his nickname gave him license to draw up one trick play for the Washington Redskins to use in a playoff game and another one for the Miami Dolphins to take into the Super Bowl. Ever since, there have been more jocks shuffling through the Rose Garden than Carter's got peanuts. Wasn't it ol' smiley face hisself who invited the entire 1980 Olympic team to the White House as consolation for the Jimmy Carter-led boycott of the Moscow Games? Come on in. Have a Billy Beer. But please check those javelins at the door.
Not to be outdone, Ronald Reagan, an erstwhile sportscaster, took his role as the Great Communicator to extremes at World Series and Super Bowl time. Whenever someone uncorked a bottle of champagne in a locker room, the White House operator made the mandatory phone call.
Yes, Mr. President?
Congratulations. You won the big one for the Gipper, heh, heh.
Thank you, Mr. President. Did you watch the game?
No, I was taking a nap.