Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Metaphorical video of Obama's first pitch at the All-Star game

Video as metaphor. That's President Obama's ceremonial throwing out of the first pitch at last night's MLB All-Star game. He trots out to the mound to cheers (and some boos!) looking "cool" in his own estimation in his baseball warmup jacket and jeans, takes a couple of false pumps in his windup, then tosses a high, arching looper towards home. Albert Pujols is crouched in front of home plate just in case the Prez throws short (the ultimate embarrassment for a Prez in this situation) and Pujols reaches and just manages to scoop up the dying quail before it hits the dirt.

Obama celebrates with a big fist pump as if he has just thrown a strike for the final out.

Fox Sports covers the "action" with a tight camera angle which obscures exactly how and where the pitch lands. Only in a follow-up shot from a camera from center field do we see how close Obama's pitch came to being a dirt bouncer. Pujols snatched his bacon right out of the fire.

So there you have it, Presidential metaphor on the baseball field. Obama sails high after a couple of fakes, looking "cool." But after his high, arching start, he plummets fast toward the dirt. And it takes a major league talent who moves up closer to save the day, barely covering his weak arm.

Contrast the much-despised W, whose first pitches for his eight years were all easy strikes.

Tim Graham at the Media Research Center gives the play-by-play on how the media handled Obama's almost-in-the-dirt first pitch.

I don’t judge a president by his ceremonial pitching. (I'd have to hire a stunt president.) But the Yahoo Sports! blog Big League Stew thought the Fox camera shot of President Obama’s St. Louis arch of a pitch at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game was odd:

Where did it land? Was it a strike or wasn't it? Why didn't the network choose a better camera to shoot from? Those were the questions that viewers of baseball's All-Star Game were asking themselves at home after Fox elected to show President Barack Obama's ceremonial first pitch at the 80th All-Star Game from a tight angle.

...Earlier on Tuesday, the President said that he planned to throw his first Presidential pitch high so it'd get to the plate without bouncing, but his control was lacking. He clearly didn't throw a strike like George W. Bush famously did during the 2001 World Series in New York just weeks after Sept. 11.

The more debatable point from the historic moment was the reception the President was afforded by the self-described "best fans in baseball." Though Obama was roundly cheered by the All-Star fans, his live presence still didn't attract the applause that George W. Bush did during a taped announcement by the four previous Presidents before the game and some boos could even be heard among the cheers.

Whether or not those fans were booing Obama's politics (Missouri voted for John McCain last November) or his choice of attire (he chose to wear a long-sleeved White Sox jacket in support of his favorite team and a pair of regular old blue jeans) was unclear.

Yahoo! Sports had a video showing Fox aired a replay with a conventional center-field shot of Obama's pitch. Commenters noticed that St. Louis Cardinals star Albert Pujols perched in front of home plate to catch a short pitch.

First pitches are very ceremonial. The exception may have been Bush's post-9/11 pitch at the World Series, when the country craved normalcy, and it felt quite brave for the president to take the field in such a shaken atmosphere. In April 1996, our MediaWatch newsletter found that one anchor tried to downplay boos for Bill Clinton in Baltimore on Opening Day, while another just edited them out:

NBC's Tom Brokaw swung and missed when he tried to cover for the President. During the traditional first pitch thrown by the President on baseball's Opening Day, Bill Clinton was roundly booed by many in attendance at the April 2 Orioles game. Brokaw delivered the play-by-play:

"President Clinton taking the mound for the ceremonial first pitch. All the way from the pitcher's rubber, it was a little on the high side, and watching from the stands and not booing like most of the rest of the crowd -- Pat Buchanan. By the way the boos, like the first pitch, are traditional whoever the President."

Dan Rather didn't even mention the boos on the same night's CBS Evening News. Viewers only heard cheering at Clinton's lob. But on that day's CNN Inside Politics Bruce Morton replayed five recent Opening Day first pitches, one from Ronald Reagan, three from George Bush, and a previous Clinton throw. In all five, including Clinton's earlier pitch, the President was cheered.

Let's hope that's not a metaphor for where our nation is headed under Obama, into the dirt.

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