Alexander Wolff thinks Barack Obama won the 2008 presidential election because of basketball.
The presidential candidate frequently played in three-on-three basketball tournaments for six weeks during his campaigns in Indiana and North Carolina, mostly “playing H-O-R-S-E games in driveways” with constituents, Wolff said.
“Obama is playing the game that is beloved in these two states with people who love that game, and probably neutralizing questions about ‘Well, who is this guy with the funny name?’” Wolff said said. “Not only does he go on to win North Carolina and Indiana, but they also wind up in the general election as the two reddest states that he flips to blue.”
“He wins both states narrowly, but by virtue of how narrow [the victory] was, I would argue that basketball played a role,” Wolff added.
Wolff a writer for Sports Illustrated, visited Main Campus yesterday in the Paley Lecture Hall to speak about his book “The Audacity of Hoop,” which explains how the president used basketball to further his presidential campaign.
Wolff’s book, which was published by Temple University Press in November 2015, details how the current President of the United States used basketball to find his identity in the Oval Office. It includes 125 images, mostly from White House photographer Pete Souza.
Back in 2008, Wolff’s editors at Sports Illustrated pitched the idea to him for an article, asking him to put together a basketball biography of the recently elected president. He began digging through Obama’s past, and he realized basketball played a bigger part in the president’s life than he expected.
Once Wolff realized basketball remained a part of Obama’s life after he took the Oath of Office, he started to think that a book was a possibility, instead of just a magazine article. After Obama’s re-election, Wolff connected with Temple University Press and the book became a reality.
“It was a good project because of [Wolff’s] talent,” said Gary Kramer, the publicity manager at Temple University Press. “It was an attractive project for us and it was something we could do in the timeframe that we were given. We had to get it out in the market by last November, so we would have a year of Obama still in office to publicize and promote it.”
“It’s very interdisciplinary, because it’s sports, pop culture, politics and race,” Kramer added.
About 40 people, including students, graduates and community members listened to Wolff speak about his book. One was Dave Petrelius, a 1975 radio, TV & film alumnus and a long-time friend of Wolff’s.
“If you hadn’t read the book, I think it was a great connection because the photographs are amazing, and that was the first thing I noticed,” Petrelius said. “Just the whole idea that there is a connection there between basketball and politics. … It connects with people. Obviously it did, since Indiana and North Carolina flipped the way they did.”
Matt Cockayne can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.