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Barry o’Bomber’s still a big-time sports nut

Last update - Sunday, May 15, 2011, 16:27 By Metro Éireann

The president of the United States has an active schedule in both domestic and world politics, but according to a campaign source during his election, Barack Obama is also a “big sports nut”.

He developed his passion for basketball during his formative years in Hawaii. On the courts and at school (at Punahou Academy in Honolulu) they nicknamed him Barry O’Bomber because of his devastating jump shot, which he perfected during many hours of practice on a basketball court behind his grandparents’ apartment.
In high school, Obama’s senior class was more than 90 per cent white. Distressed from a growing number of deep racial questions, the young Obama found solace on the basketball court, a place he said he felt most at ease.
“On the basketball court I could find a community of sorts, with an inner life all its own,” he said. “It was there I would make my closest white friends, on turf where blackness couldn’t be a disadvantage.”
His grandmother Madelyn once said: “I used to know when he was coming home because I could hear the basketball bouncing all the way from over there to over here.”
Obama went on to become part of the best basketball squad ever formed at Punahou Academy. In his senior year they won the state championship; unfortunately for Obama, he found himself warming the bench for most of the year. Rather than a lack of ability or a racial element, Obama defended his coach, by saying the team played a ‘white’ style of game, more of a half-court game and less of a running street game. Obama also added that the team was winning regularly without him, so he couldn’t complain too loudly.
Over 20 years later, in an interview with David Mendall, his description of coach Chris McLachlin was very different: “I got into a fight with the guy and he benched me for three or four games. Just wouldn’t play me. And I was furious, you know… [I thought] how dare he bench me!”
After graduating from high school with honours in 1979, Obama won a full scholarship at Occidental College in Los Angeles. He continued to play basketball for several weeks before accepting that it consumed too much of his time. Studies became his main priority, and maybe girls too. He said: “The schools I went to weren’t driven by athletics. To get girls, you had to be the smartest guy in the coffee shop, not the best shooter on the court.”
Obama went on to attend Columbia University in New York before moving to Chicago for work when he was 23. Four years later he went on to Harvard Law School before returning to his adopted home of the Windy City.
Continuing his passion for sport to this day, Obama is now a firm follower of the Chicago Bears in American football, the Chicago White Sox in baseball and the NBA’s Chicago Bulls.
The Chicago White Sox are not going too well this year but it is early yet in the baseball season. On the other hand, his beloved Chicago Bulls are having a good year and are currently fighting it out with the Atlanta Hawks for a place in the Eastern Conference final.
While Obama still likes to shoot some hoops at the White House, he also enjoys playing golf and finds fun in organising a poker night in his spare time.
But if he becomes a fan of Offaly’s inter-county football or hurling teams after his visit to Moneygall, let’s hope he doesn’t expect them to win any silverware this summer!

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