Ever since he took office in January, 2009—and maybe even before—Barack Obama has been the hated man in Utah, as conservatives have held tea parties and protests to rail against his liberal agenda. But, some 10 months into his presidency, Obama is catching a break, thanks to the return of Carlos Boozer to the limelight when the Utah Jazz play in their home opener Friday night.
Boozer is the clear front-runner for Utah’s most hated after 1. saying he was going to become a free agent to get more money; 2. opting back into his Jazz contract when more money wasn’t there; 3. telling anyone who would listen on sports talk radio in other markets he wanted a trade; 4. against all odds, ending up back in Utah.
Sure, nearly two-in-three voting Utahns didn’t pick Obama in 2008, but a higher percentage than that of the overall population are Jazz fans—one of the few congregations in the state that outnumber Republicans. While Obama might have conservatives worrying about the horrors of gays serving openly in the military, that’s nothing compared to the chills Jazz fans get when thinking about how Boozer’s lack of defensive effort could mean that Utah does not make the Western Conference Finals.
There are plenty of other similarities between Obama and Boozer. Both hail from states that are technically part of the U.S. of A.—Hawaii for Obama, Alaska for Boozer—but we’re always a bit suspicious of since they don’t touch the other 48. No word yet on whether Boozer has ever produced a legitimate birth certificate for Jazz management.
Both spent the summer showing their constituencies they were willing to negotiate with sworn enemies—Obama with Iran, Boozer with the Chicago Bulls—with very different results. Obama got a Nobel Peace Prize from five guys in Norway, while Carlos will get boos from 5,000 guys from West Valley City on Friday night.
Both have had their careers sidetracked by the current recession. Obama had to make getting the economy back on track his No. 1 priority when he came into office. Boozer said back in December of 2008, “I’m opting out. No matter what, I’m going to get a raise.” Then over the summer he found that the promised land of free agency was in fact a desert where teams were dumping salaries and not interested in throwing millions at an under-size power forward who has only managed to stay healthy for two of the last five years.
And, oh, by the way, both are black. Not that it would be an issue here, would it? In Utah? No, we’re not going to play the race card here. We’ll leave that up to conservative, Mormon, talk-show host Glenn Beck, who—had he been on ESPN instead of Fox News—might have accused Carlos of leaving Utah because he “has a deep-seated hatred for white people or white culture.” (By the way, if Utah isn’t the capital of white culture, where would it be?) Besides, being an African-American in Utah might be a plus now that LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks has declared that, in the post-Prop. 8 world, Mormon is the new black.
Another similarity between the two is that both Republicans and Jazz fans have to decide if they want to employ the “cutting off your nose to spite your face” strategy for their country and team. Just as Rush Limbaugh has declared he wants Obama to fail, thus risking economic meltdown and international calamity, Jazz fans have to decide if they want Boozer to fail, thus risking throwing away the upcoming season when the franchise is already coming off a throw-away season.
Sure, it would be gigantic fun for Republicans to yell, “Told you so!” at Obama if the Dow dropped to 5,000, just as Jazz fans would get a kick out of letting out a huge Nelson-from-The Simpsons-style “Ha-ha!” at Boozer if he shot 30 percent from the field for 10 games before suffering a season-ending injury. However, the result would be a bunch of out-of-work people not able to afford to buy Jazz tickets to go boo a struggling team that wouldn’t get anything of real value in a trade for Boozer, and would still have his paycheck putting them over the salary cap.
Is that what we really want?
Sometimes we have to accept that neither politics nor pro sports are the purest of pursuits, and shout encouragement for people we aren’t all that thrilled about because we know if they don’t do well, things could get a lot worse. So, put Grandma in her nicest dress before you wheel her in front of one of Obama’s socialist death panels, and put on your Jazz gear before you go cheer for Boozer to average 20-and-10 this season.