THERE WAS A spot the other day on NPR about our new President's unique speaking style. In the report, a gent from Iowa said Donald Trump sounded "more like a football coach" than a politician. The segment included this keeper from the campaign trail: "I always joke. I say, 'We want to see win, win, win, constant winning.' And you'll see, if I'm president. And you'll say, 'Please, Mr. President, we're winning too much. We can't stand it anymore. Can't we have a loss?' And I'll say, 'No, we're going to keep winning, winning, winning, because we're going to make America great again.'" So watch out, Washington Generals. In the Trump era there'll be no room for losers.
Trump's a bright-lights sports guy. You'll see him in the Steinbrenners' box at Yankee Stadium, courtside at the U.S. Open, ringside at your better heavyweight fights. But take Trump out of his uniform—the big blue suit, the long red tie—and you will find someone even more familiar: the win-crazy, lunch-bucket sports fan. That's at the root of his populism.
I've spent time with Trump. He once asked me what I thought about "this whole steroid thing" in baseball. I gave a high-minded, low-energy NPRish answer about the medical and ethical dangers. Trump listened—he's a good listener—and said, "I do not care. I just want to see them hit the long ball." You know how many people agree with him? Millions! More home runs equals more wins.
Of course, Donald Trump is not just another Sunday-on-the-BarcaLounger sports fan. He has athletes on speed dial. Years ago, while I was playing golf with him, he was talking on his phone to Natalie Gulbis, the LPGA golfer. Trump said he had read in the New York Post that Ben Roethlisberger had dumped her. "I never want to read that again," Trump told her. "From now on I want to read that you dumped him. You don't get dumped." Why? Winners don't get dumped!
A decade ago, while I was reporting a story about Trump and his golf courses, Trump called and told me about a 68 he said he had shot at Bel-Air Country Club in Los Angeles. "Check it out," he said, telling me how he had played with Al Michaels "and two real-estate guys." I called one of the real-estate guys. Trump had played well he said, but you couldn't put an actual number on his score, not with all the garden-variety liberties he took, the mulligans, gimmes, improved lies and the rest.
I left the Bel-Air round out of the story. When the piece was published, Trump said, "You wrote it with a lot of like. I cannot say love, as there is nothing homosexual going on here. But why did you not include my score of 68 at the fabulous Bel-Air course?" I told Trump what the real-estate guy had told me. Trump said, "Michael, I shot 68, and you should have put it in the paper."
Long before Trump, there was Al Davis ("Just win, baby"). There was Charlie Sheen ("Winning!"). But all those two won were three Super Bowls and an American League pennant in a Hollywood movie. Trump, as an untested rookie, won the presidency!
Did Donald Trump shoot 68 that day at Bel-Air, as he said he did? Not likely. Still, last Friday, he was inaugurated as the 45th president of the United States. That is an actual fact.
The Spurs coach offers another view
Before the Spurs beat the Cavs last Saturday, Gregg Popovich, an Air Force vet, shared his thoughts on the state of the union: "I'd just feel better if somebody was in that position that showed the maturity and psychological and emotional level of somebody that was his age. It's dangerous, and it doesn't do us any good. I hope he does a great job, but there's a difference between respecting the office of the presidency and who occupies it. And that respect has to be earned. But it's hard to be respectful of someone when we all have kids and we're watching him be misogynistic and xenophobic and racist and make fun of handicapped people....
... But I felt great today watching the march in protest [of] how he has conducted himself, because it tells me I live in a country where a whole lot of people care. And we have to be vigilant to make sure that, although we all hope that he does good things for our country, that we don't get embarrassed by him and roll back liberties that have been worked for [for] so long."