The first thing you notice, while waiting for the President of
the United States in the West Wing lobby of the White House, is
the bowl of fun-sized candy bars on an end table, so that you can
picture Jacques Chirac, while cooling his heels on the same sofa,
dolefully peeling himself a 3 Musketeers.
The next thing you notice, and everything you notice afterward,
is sports-related, beginning with your own dress shoes, still
stained yellow ocher from the track at Churchill Downs, a clay
you've tramped into the White House, leaving prints, so that the
carpeting now resembles an Arthur Murray dance chart.
On the South Lawn is a throng of famous athletes--distinguished
double consonants like Lynn Swann, Mia Hamm and Emmitt Smith,
plus Olympians, NBA stars and literal lawn jockeys--which
explains why the onetime home of James Madison has been opened to
you, Oscar Madison.
When you finally are ushered in, on this day two summers ago, to
see President Bush, he talks eagerly about A-Rod and Willie Mays
and Nolan Ryan and choking on a pretzel while watching the
Dolphins, until you're forgiven for thinking the room in which
you now sit--the Roosevelt Room--is named for Roosevelt Grier.
A press attache whispers, "The President is an avid reader of
your magazine." His spokesman at the time, Ari Fleischer, looks
exactly like Greg Maddux. To judge by a recent book, the
President is less interested in Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill
than in former Yankees rightfielder Paul O'Neill.
A political reporter for The New Republic once joked to The New
York Times that, in the Bush Administration, SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
is the in-flight magazine of Air Force One.
By the time the President draws you aside, just outside the Oval
Office, and asks gravely, "Do you think Bonds is on steroids?" it
occurs to you that SI really might be the in-flight magazine of
Air Force One, and that our next Surgeon General could well be
And so it came as no surprise last week when the State of the
Union address has less to do with the Patriot Act and the Brady
Bill than with Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who was in the
Capitol to hear the President say, "Some in professional sports
are not setting much of an example."
With Indiana Fever forward Tamika Catchings likewise looking on
from the gallery, Bush added, "Tonight I call on team owners,
union representatives, coaches and players to take the lead, to
send the right signal, to get tough and to get rid of steroids
Alas, the President then segued into his "sanctity of marriage"
spiel, pleasing Condi Rice, but neglecting Jerry Rice--and
countless other sports subjects Dubya might have preferred to
All of this is by way of telling the President, should he now be
riffling through this issue on Air Force One, that SI is pleased
to provide his next State of the Union address, excerpts of which
we now offer:
"My fellow Americans, American Leaguers, Kodak All-Americans,
club-seat holders at American Airlines Arena: The State of our
Union is strong. But so is the state of the baseball union. We
have nothing to fear but Fehr himself. [Applause.]
"Tonight, in this historic chamber, where once stood Lincoln and
Kennedy, we are hosting former Raiders tackle Lincoln Kennedy.
His presence reminds us that our common enemies--Al Qaeda, Al
Davis--are tonight weaker than they were a year ago. [Applause.]
"And while I haven't discovered WMD in Iraq, I have discovered
WFAN in New York, where the constant chants of 'Fire Chaney'
referred, I now understand, to Don Chaney, not Dick Cheney. (I
now regret having rashly replaced the Vice President with Lenny
"But I stand by my other appointments, Rasheed Wallace and Priest
Holmes, who have put, respectively, the joint and the Chiefs back
in the Joint Chiefs. [Applause.]
"Recently I accepted the resignation of Dr. Kay as chief weapons
inspector in Iraq. This Dr. Kay, it turns out, is not Dwight
Gooden, who nevertheless knows a thing or two about arms.
"We must remember that there exist, within our borders, extremist
groups. And so America remains on guard tonight against the
Cameron Crazies and the fundamentalist Phillie Phanatic. We also
put on notice tonight all foreign dictators, including The Mad
Hungarian, Al Hrabosky. [Applause.]
"By passing the No Child Left Behind Act, Congress has assured
every American aged 16 or under a roster spot in the National
Basketball Association. Still, we mustn't forget our seniors,
merely because they are elderly, and in their fourth year of
"Thirty-five years ago, in Houston, we sent a rocket to the moon.
Now, in Houston, we have sent a Rocket to the mound. Our nation,
in other words, just keeps getting stronger. And so I say to you
tonight: May God bless the U.S.A. [Applause.]
"And Conference USA."