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Remembering President Obama and the Phillies

Undoubtedly, President Obama’s fondest memory will be when the Philadelphia Phillies visited the White House during his first term in office.

The year the Philadelphia Phillies won the World Series, none of us noticed the chaos that was descending around us.

It was the summer of 2008 and the world was almost destroyed by a financial meltdown so total and complete that it nearly swallowed capitalism whole. The American financial system, and as a result, the world’s economy, was almost destroyed by a combination of corporate greed, stupidity and ignorance that would have made the Great Depression look like a Golden Globes after-party.

But in 2008, the Phillies were in a pennant race. They were trying to make the playoffs for the second straight year. We had important things to be concerned about.

The Phils went on another red-hot rampage in September and came from behind to take down the Milwaukee Brewers for the wild card and then the New York Mets for the division title. It was fun and exciting and it made us totally ignorant of everything else that was happening.

On September 7, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were taken over by the government. Big news to be sure, but the Phils had a huge doubleheader against the Mets that day (which they split, keeping them two games out of first)! Can’t worry about two girly-sounding government agencies no one really cares about when the Mets are in town!

On September 15, Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, sending shockwaves throughout the world. But not in Philly, where the Phils had just swept the Brewers in a huge four-game series the day before to draw even in the wild card. One must stay focused on the important things!

On September 29, Congress rejected TARP, sending the Dow down 778 points, its worst single day drop in history. We glanced up from the sports page and raised an eyebrow. And then on October 3, Congress passed a different version of TARP, which pulled everything back from the brink. Meanwhile, the Phils’ NLDS series against Milwaukee was already underway, with the Phils taking a 2-0 series lead in Philadelphia. Back from the brink of what?

Yeah, we were all distracted. There was a presidential race going on during the entire pennant race and postseason run and I’m not sure anyone noticed until we saw “Joe the Plumber” signs in the stands during Game 4 of the World Series and wondered if Joe Blanton had started an off-season job we weren’t aware of.

That 2008 season seems like forever ago. It makes you realize just how long President Obama has been in office when you realize it was in his first year on the job, in June of 2009, when he reached the high point of his presidency and welcomed the world champion Phils to the White House.

I believe the Phillies were the first professional sports team to be welcomed by the new president, which was pretty rad. It must stink to have the high point of your presidency happen within the first six months, but our president soldiered on.

Sure, Mr. Obama has done a lot of interesting and compelling things during his time in office, and his supporters and critics can and will argue about the merits of those things. But one item we can all agree on is that, after meeting with Shane Victorino and Eric Bruntlett and getting that #44 Phils jersey with Obama on the back, everything to follow must have paled in comparison.

Food tasted blander. Foreign leaders seemed less impressive. Crucial pieces of legislation lacked relevance. Intelligence reports didn’t seem as intelligent. It happened to all of us, why should the new president be any different?

The President’s speech that day didn’t exactly send bald eagles soaring, but it was pleasant enough. Among his most notable comments...

“What an unbelievable run it was, full of come from behind wins by an underdog team that loved to prove the prognosticators wrong. We share something in common there, because nobody thought I was going to win, either.”

“I also know how it felt for the Phillies to get this weight off their backs because my beloved White Sox did it three years ago after nearly 90 years of waiting, so Cubs fans out there take heart! Anything is possible!”

None of these players play for the Phillies anymore.

Little did he know those plucky Cubbies would be just eight short years away from joining his White Sox as title-holders. Get this man to a sports book!

And a quick aside... here we see a pre-ruptured Achilles Ryan Howard touring the White House garden with White House chef Sam Kass, talking about his new diet while munching on some of the many delectable First Vegetables. This is a thing that happened.

It truly was an amazing day for everyone. It seems so long ago, and yet, it all happened while our still-current president was in office.

So as we say goodbye to President Obama, we hold onto this memory in particular.

It’s the moment a Philadelphia team stood in front of the White House and was declared a champion as the rest of the world nearly imploded around us.