[guest post by JVW]
I’ve been meaning to write this up for the past week. Former President Barack Obama was a guest speaker at the annual Sports Analytics Conference hosted by the MIT Sloan School of Management (disclosure: I received an undergraduate degree at MIT) at the end of last month. Now in its twelfth year, the conference is a chance for math and statistics geeks to apply their knowledge to the world of sports. Speakers generally cover the entire gamut of statistically-based sports management, from personnel and contract decisions, to revenue and branding concerns, to player development and on-field strategies, to sports betting and fantasy sports (shudder).
In that regard, it’s not so unusual that former President Obama would be among this year’s speakers. All conferences, especially academic ones, thrive on having celebrity speakers, though past Sloan Sports conferences have had to make do with B-list names like Mark Cuban, Nate Silver, Malcom Gladwell, and Bill Simmons. Booking Obama gives the conference real star power and it allows Obama, a man who has always seemed to be straining to convince us he possesses a high-caliber intellect, a chance to satisfy his intellectual pretensions through the soft and safe subject of sports. What is unusual, however, is that the organizers of the conference seemed intent upon not allowing the general public to know what the 44th President had to say at the event, prohibiting not only recordings of Mr. Obama’s talk but also demanding that reporters not so much as quote him. From a press release sent out to reporters in advance:
During President Obama’s panel, the following will not be permitted without exception: photography, video recording, streaming, and social media posting — including the use of Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and other platforms. Following the panel, the sharing of its content on public platforms, including social media, will not be permitted. Those who fail to adhere to this policy will be subject to removal from this conference and denied tickets to future SSAC conferences.
This policy was not a hit among media members, even among those who generally seek to lavish praise on Barack Obama’s every utterance. The local Boston Herald, a paper admittedly hostile to Obama’s brand of progressivism, declined a media credential due to the restrictions and the conference organizers’ $400 fee. Newsweek, which served as Tiger Beat to Obama’s Leif Garrett [it’s an 70s reference, folks] from 2008-17, ran a piece that pretty much rehashed the Herald article and added a snarky reminder that Obama once upon a time promised the most transparent administration in history.
But it was Reason magazine who apparently obtained an unauthorized recording of what the high-profile guest speaker imparted upon his sports geek audience. The magazine’s article by Robby Soave lays out five different things of note contained in the former President’s conversation, and rates it as “pretty standard Obama fare,” pointing out that “he never once said the word Trump, though Obama did seem to imply that his White House was remarkably drama-free in contrast.” The major five points as outlined by Soave are as follows:
1) Obama thinks Google, Facebook, etc., are “a public good as well as a commercial enterprise,” and should consider whether they are corroding our democracy.
That’s kind of a curious thing to say about Silicon Valley after vacuuming up their money in his two Presidential campaigns and leaning on them to fund his Presidential
Library, er, Center, along with creating what was characterized by the Washington Post as a “revolving door” between big tech companies and the Obama White House staff. But one thing we learned about Barack Obama is that he, like the Clinton Crime Family, refuses to stay bought.
2) It’s okay to argue about how we should address climate change. It’s not okay to deny the underlying science.
We all know the left’s conceit that they are devoted to impartial, clear-cut science, except for when it suggests that fracking is safe, there are only two sexes, first-trimester fetuses can feel pain during the abortion process, genetically-modified crops are safe, etc.
3) Obama really likes basketball—and he’d like it more if the NBA had a junior league.
It’s nice that Obama now (according to Soave) acknowledges that he was “a mediocre high school basketball player,” considering that in his autobiography Obama claimed that his lack of playing time was because his white coach though that Obama’s play was “too black.” It couldn’t have been fun for the coach to have his most famous ex-player smear him as a racist all these years. I actually agree for the most part with Obama about changes needed in college and professional basketball, so no further comments on that.
4) Diversity isn’t about “charity or political correctness, it’s just common sense.” And it’s why his White House was scandal-free, according to the President.
Obama read the Quran in Indonesia, so he might be familiar with sura 3, verse 185: And what is the life of this world except the enjoyment of delusion.
5) Obama thinks the stereotype about lazy government employees is wrong.
He’s not exactly off-base here, but it is typical Obama mush. According to Soave, here is what he had to say: “At least at the top levels of the federal government, people work harder than in the private sector. When I came out of the White House, everything looked like it was in slow motion. I felt like I was Neo in The Matrix. Our folks were putting in 80-hour work weeks and barely getting vacations and under unimaginable pressure.”
Now the guy whose time spent as a junior associate at his Chicago law firm was allegedly centered around writing his autobiography may think that everyone in the private sector works bankers’ hours with late arrivals, long lunches, and early cocktail hours, but perhaps he doesn’t understand the pressure that a young lawyer who is not a trophy hire is under to bill lots of hours on behalf of the firm. Nor does he know what it is like working as a junior associate at a financial institution, working 80-90 hour weeks, all seven days to prepare research for the trading partners. And he has no idea what it is like being a sales representative in a competitive field, spending all of the day’s business hours making sales calls and then spending evenings and weekends writing email, doing follow-up research, and lining up new prospects for the next day. And for that matter, there are plenty of government workers whom we do not want working eighty hour weeks. I’m fine with people who deal with public safety working those long hours (though in fairness to them, they shouldn’t be expected to), but I don’t want people who work in the legislative or regulatory bureaus to work for anything longer than, well, bankers’ hours. Maybe if Obama Administration worker bees would have gone home at 5:00 pm every night the boss’s legacy would be for something more admirable than a rising stock market in a flat economy.
It looks like we are destined to have many more years of Barack Obama’s pabulum, dished out liberally to sympathetic audiences for big bucks. That is his prerogative as an ex-President. We recently heard that Mrs. Obama’s memoir will be published in November and Mr. Obama’s memoir is expected in spring 2019. Penguin Random House shelled out a $65 million advance for the privilege of publishing both books in a dying market for print materials. The Obamas are entitled to peddle their hokum and bunkum for big bucks if that floats their boat, but universities who are allegedly committed to seeking the truth should never be put in the position of embargoing their speeches, no matter what the reason.
Cross-posted at the Jury Talks Back.