Two weeks have passed since Russian Machine Never Breaks implored President Obama to attend a Caps game and Barack The Red. To say we’ve been floored by the reaction would be a total understatement. In the days since our plea, we’ve received nods from Puck Daddy, D.C. Sports Bog, On Frozen Blog, Homer McFanboy, DCist, LaVar Arrington, and even “Uncle” Ted Leonsis himself! Then, 1,244 people joined our Facebook Petition (join now if you haven’t yet), including Japers Rink, Dmitry Chesnokov and the affable Caps Owner (yes, really)! But to be honest, we were all completely shocked last Friday afternoon, when Scott Wilson, White House Correspondent for The Washington Post, asked the President’s Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, for a response to our open letter. Joke or not, my letter being read before the White House gaggle was the highlight of my career and a fitting testament to the obscene number of hours Blogadyte Ian Oland has put into site.
It turns out that Scott Wilson is actually a longtime hockey fan and was the perfect person to ask the question. Scott knows hockey jerseys are “sweaters,” and he attributes his lack of a hockey career to his mother’s fear that he’d end up with Bobby Clarke’s gap-toothed grin.
Scott was kind enough to spare a few minutes with me amidst the chaos in D.C. of late. For a man that has covered disaster, war, and famine, I’d like to think that chatting about hockey for a few minutes was a welcome reprieve and not just a distraction. For me, it was a lot bigger.
But how did our manifesto get read aloud in the press room of the White House? It only could have happened that Friday: “Robert Gibbs had to pay back his bet to his Canadian counterpart, so he wore the Canadian national team’s hockey sweater to the briefing,” said Wilson. After only a few moments of modeling the red maple leaf for the press corp, Gibbs swapped out for a U.S. jersey, thereby unknowingly inviting the question. After prefacing with a quote from out letter, Wilson asked Gibbs, “Will the President commit to going to a Washington Capitals game this season?”
The Press Secretary must have been in a decent mood that afternoon, as he took the question in good faith. “He took it in the spirit it was meant. I knew he wouldn’t give a firm commitment, but I did get a light, evasive, funny answer,” Wilson observed.
It’s the kind of back-and-forth you can only have at the end of the week, once all the serious business has already been addressed. Before tackling “Barack the Red”, Wilson had asked about the big-ticket items on the Obama agenda: the Citizens United v. FEC Supreme Court decision and pending Wall Street reform. And although we are obligated to mention politics insofar as they collide with hockey, political discourse is strongly discouraged here. (If the morlocks from The Pensblog wander over to RMNB again and see us talking about medical malpractice tort reform, they’ll get dangerously confused.)
I asked Scott if he’d be willing to follow up with Press Secretary Gibbs about the President attending a game. “If the mood is right, and as we get closer to the playoffs, we’ll see,” was the firmest commitment I could get out of the professional journalist. He even rebuffed my attempted bribe, using a Russian Machine Never Breaks t-shirt as bait. “I could donate the t-shirt to charity maybe,” tactfully responded Wilson. Class act.
We all know President Obama is a big sports fan. “He says that SportsCenter on ESPN is his favorite show,” continued Wilson, “so I wouldn’t be surprised if you got him this year.” When pressed to quantify our chances, Scott went out on a limb.
“65/35. And those numbers go up if they go deep in the playoffs. The town will have Caps fever, and the President will want to plug into that.” Precisely. While we’d obviously prefer POTUS to grow a playoff beard and rock a Weagle necktie throughout the Spring, hopping on the bandwagon at Conference finals would be cool, too. In the end, we all want infinite glory for the home team.
My talk with Wilson ended with sage shifting of responsibility– off of the President and onto the team. “More than anything, the Capitals’ success will determine [if the President comes].”
Alright, boys. It’s all on you now.