Red birds, White House
I dropped by the White House the other day. It wasn’t as a part of one of those tours involving wide-eyed, open-mouthed 7-year-olds asking why the Blue Room of the White House could possibly be called the Blue Room, either.
No, my visit was much more glamorous than that; I hung out at the White House with the 2011 World Champion St. Louis Cardinals, who were as wide-eyed and open-mouthed as those 7 year olds.
Okay, so I wasn’t exactly hanging out, and the only Cardinal I said a word to was starting pitcher Kyle Lohse. However, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama both came to speak to the team with the St. Louis higher-ups (and me) in attendance. Before the president As the First Lady said, “Whether you’re a Cardinal or a Cub fan, we can all find a way to give something back.”
Before President Obama gave his short, booming speech about the incredible comeback nature of the 2011 Cardinals, the first lady spoke.
Normally, the first lady doesn’t attend these championship team events, which usually consist of the president congratulating the team and making a bad joke about how he wishes his hometown Chicago (White Sox/Bulls/Blackhawks/Bears) will win the championship next year.
Mrs. Obama came to this particular event to publicly commend the Cardinals on their visiting of military veterans throughout the season. In fact, they visited the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, MD the morning before their White House visit.
In her speech, the first lady recognized three veterans in the audience: one with bruises all over his face, one who had to wear shades inside the White House due to his sensitivity to light after an enduring an explosion, and one who could not stand to be recognized because he lost his legs in a different explosion.
Not too many people were aware of the Cardinals’ work with military veterans, but, according to Mrs. Obama, that work was a mainstay of the Cards’ comeback season.
Mainstream sports media tends to focus on the atrocities; you hear about quarterbacks who run dogfighting rings or steroid-strengthened sluggers. Because those stories are always in the limelight, we miss out on the inspirational kinds of stories; athletes who sponsor charities or work with disease-ridden children.
We miss out on a story like Patrick Willis, a San Francisco 49ers linebacker, was taken into foster care from his marijuana-addicted father as a child and is now a perennial NFL Pro-Bowler. We miss out on a story like Morgan Ensberg, a former infielder for the Houston Astros, who helped a group escape from a hostage situation in which he had a gun held to his head. We scrutinize athletes like Tim Tebow, who often sits with children with cancer, just talking football.
We miss out on stories like the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals. We all saw their wonderful comeback, but we hardly ever heard about their visits to hospitals of wounded veterans. Yes, their visit to the White House was mainly for their World Series victory. But it was about much, much more.