President Bush takes gold in befriending athletes

The Baltimore Sun

The Sun's Olympic correspondents, Rick Maese and Kevin Van Valkenburg, are blogging back and forth to each other at An excerpt:

Sorry, dude, but I am going to talk about politics a little. And you're going to listen. Is it just me, or does President Bush become 10 times more lovable when he's clowning around with athletes? These Olympics might turn out to be one of the best parts of his legacy. First, he shows up at the pool waving an American flag, giving Michael Phelps the thumbs-up and acting, in general, like everyone's lovable uncle. Then he heads down to the beach volleyball venue and contemplates, if only for a moment, taking up Misty May-Treanor on an offer to slap her on the butt. As Will Ferrell might say if this were a Saturday Night Live skit, "Presidenting is cool!"

I wish, after his second term ends, we could name Bush the President of All Sports, and it could be his job to travel the world and goof around with various athletes of all nations. He could play cricket in Pakistan and snooker in England, and no one could possibly be upset. Bush, the politician, I'd probably give mixed reviews. But Bush the Wacky Sports Fan? I can't get enough of that guy. I want to see him courtside at the basketball games this week, doing flying chest bumps with Kobe Bryant after long three-pointers. I want him doing the wave at water polo and nudging the guy sitting next to him and cracking jokes like: "Where are all the horses, dude?" and "You know who would be hard to water board? That Michael Phelps! He's like a fish, ain't he?"

Seeing Bush at the pool today also reminded me of the funny item in the New York Post a few years ago, when Phelps allegedly tried to score Jenna Bush's phone number and got shot down by her publicist. If Jenna had seen Phelps swim yesterday - and if she hadn't already gotten married, I suppose - maybe she would have reconsidered. (Her sister, Barbara, was in the house, however, and I've always thought she was the cuter twin anyway.) ...

I'm going to make a bold statement based on little more than my own intuition, Maese: I think Phelps is going to try to win the 100-meter freestyle in London in 2012. And possibly the backstroke events. Maybe even the 400-meter freestyle. If he could put together a completely different program, and win six or seven gold medals, what wouldn't that pretty much cement him as one of the greatest athletes of all time? In swimming, being one of the best in the world at varying distances is akin to being the best pitcher and best hitter in baseball, something only Babe Ruth could really say. ...

By the way, I know we're supposed to hate her and all because she beat Katie Hoff and took her world record, but Australia's Stephanie Rice is like the Megan Fox of swimmers. Obviously, Fox is much hotter, but Rice just has that swagger the some good-looking women like Fox have, and you can't help but love it. It's like she knows she's hot, she knows that the world thinks she's hot and she's not shy about admitting she loves the attention.

Kevin Van Valkenburg

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