FD/Respectable Negroes/Communal Exercise/GO:

In the midst of political madness and NBA ground-humming, we turn this week to place you in the hands of the fine folks over at We Are Respectable Negroes. Your host is Gordon Gartrelle, who has planned a most devious exercise. Mr. Gartrelle, please proceed...

Welcome to the All-Time Presidential Candidate one-on-one 21 Tournament, a singular event over 150 years in the making. What makes this tournament so special? All of the participants ran for president either as Democrats or as Republicans (a criteria that has rankled a number of 3rd party candidates). Many of the participants actually made it to the White House, but some never even made it out of their party’s primaries. The games are governed by standard 21 rules: maximum 3 free-throws after a made basket, players go back to 11 if they score more than 21 points, no out of bounds, only blatant fouls, traveling, and double dribbles called.

[CLICK HERE to download a bracket.]

Democratic Bracket Overview

So far, most of the buzz has surrounded the Northeastern Division, where some controversial selections have many fans talking. Selection day was bittersweet for fans of the Kennedy Brothers. John made it in as a #2 seed, but Robert and Teddy weren’t so lucky, despite their strong qualifications. Kennedy fans are especially upset with the decision to invite Shirley Chisholm and Joe Lieberman to the dance, as many believe that the inclusion of these two candidates are based on politics rather than on merit. But again, this division was simply too deep, and we haven’t even mentioned the omissions of Massachusetts candidates John Kerry and Michael Dukkakis. Also watching from home is New York’s Al Sharpton, whose formal appeal for the selection committee to include an African-American Division (comprised of himself, Jesse Jackson, Barack Obama, and Shirley Chisholm), was denied last week. Sharpton is now claiming that the selection committee was trying to send him a message by inviting the other three African- American candidates.

And folks, that’s just one Division. There are a whole bunch of stories in the other Democratic Divisions. Check out the Southern Division, where husband and wife Bill and Hillary Clinton match up in the first round. Something tells me that if Bill pulls this one out, he’ll be sleeping on the couch for quite some time. Then there’s the Southern Cracker Division, pitting segregationist Dixiecrat candidates George Wallace and Strom Thurmond against one another. The Midwestern Division is extremely interesting, with flamboyant candidates Jackson, Bryan, and Obama gunning for the more reserved Truman.

The #1 seeds are strong on the Democratic side: FDR, Truman, Bill Clinton, and LBJ. Any one of them has what it takes to go all the way, but again, there are a lot of candidates looking to knock them off. It should be fun.

Republican Bracket Overview

And on the Republican side, Teddy Roosevelt, Abe Lincoln, Eisenhower, and Reagan are all in as #1 seeds—a formidable group indeed. Many feel that this is Reagan’s tournament to lose, but keep your eye on the lanky, unorthodox upstart Abraham Lincoln. We haven’t seen much of him to this point, but those who know him say that his nickname is “Honest Abe” because he’s The Truth. I look forward to seeing him in action. Nixon, one of the craftiest candidates ever, could play the role of spoiler. And speaking of crafty, Dick Cheney was chosen as a #3 seed out of the Midwestern Division. Cheney was a questionable choice, as he never formally ran for president. The selection committee decided to make an exception for him, however, given his unmistakable influence on the office and his practical experience as effective commander-in-chief. Another surprising choice is Louisiana’s David Duke. He’s never been considered a major player, but his game has been heavily influenced by the scrappy Democrats in the Southern Cracker Division, so his opponents would be wise not to underestimate him.

Another intriguing potential match up down the road is Bush 41 vs. Bush 43. They’re both #2 seeds: Sr. representing the Northeast, and W. representing the South. How fascinating it would be to see this oedipal real-life “He Got Game” scene played out in this Tournament.

The most notable Republican candidates on the outside looking in are New York’s Thomas Dewey and Rudy Giuliani. The latter made several passionate pleas to be included, based on his handling of 9/11, but it was not to be. And finally, the Clintons and the Bushes aren’t the only family ties here. I have to mention the possibility of an all-Roosevelt final. Distant cousins Franklin and Teddy could potentially face each other for the 21 Title, but each must make it through their respective parties’ tough brackets to make this a reality.

Fill out your brackets, people, and we’ll see you tomorrow for Round 1.

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At 9/15/2008 12:25 PM, Blogger Bhel Atlantic said...

I looked at the bracket. There was room for David Duke and Pat Buchanan (aren't they the same?) on the GOP side but not Alan Keyes?

One could argue that Lee Atwater's 1988 campaign for Bush41 presaged the Pistons' thug-it-up tactics that garnered two championships, which tactics Riley's Knicks later gleefully embraced. Why bother playing ball if you ain't got game? With time, Jordan/Clinton, who had the most talent on the merits, learned to overcome these horrid tricks.

At 9/15/2008 1:27 PM, Blogger Tom Deal said...

dick cheney in the final four baby. ride that underdog with a bum ticker.

At 9/15/2008 1:39 PM, Blogger Brown Recluse, Esq. said...

I'm certainly not a fan of Buchanan, but to equate him with an actual Klansman seems a little unfair.

At 9/15/2008 3:46 PM, Blogger Sean "Ho'omana'o" (previously "snagamat") said...

I second Bert's rip DFW. I felt like he was a truly FD author, only maybe a little sadder.

At 9/15/2008 3:49 PM, Blogger maxooo said...

I'll tell ya who's angry at not being included. The man who preceeded Brandon Jennings in playing in Europe before the L (he was on a Rhodes Scholarship), the only presidential candidate with RINGS, Bill Bradley.

Seriously? No Bill Bradley in a presidential basketball tournament?

At 9/15/2008 4:55 PM, Blogger Trey said...

I just caught the latest Gorden Gartrelle episode this morning. That Digital Underground track is hot.

Cheney plays like Rodman.

At 9/15/2008 6:39 PM, Blogger Commandant Lassard said...

sorry that this is not even remotely related to the presidential 21 tourney:

for a wonderful convergence of David Foster Wallace and the Free Darko spirit, i recommend this piece on Roger Federer that he wrote for the nytimes sports magazine, play:

and for any who haven't read him, do yourself a favor and pick up 'brief interviews with hideous men' or, if you've got a few months to spare, 'infinite jest.' this was a supremely talented writer and we are a poorer culture for his loss.

At 9/15/2008 6:47 PM, Blogger Spencer said...

Good work to all involved. This post made my day.

Tangentially related, cnn.com had a guest spot today written by Colonel Sanders/Ed Rollins in which he bites the Shoalsian idea of Palin as the "gamechanger," using basketball imagery to paint her as the political Great White Hope:


Obama looked unbeatable then. He looked unbeatable the night of his acceptance speech before 85,000 cheering supporters. If victory went to the guy who could make the best speech or could win the schoolyard basketball game of "horse," he was thought to be unstoppable.

Then his world stopped with Sen. John McCain's shocking selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for the vice presidential nomination. And over the last two weeks, the governor of Alaska has deflected the arc of Obama's campaign. She can match his pretty words. The outdoor game has changed from "horse" to "moose," and only one candidate in this race has shot "moose."

I have a million problems with these two paragraphs, but my head still hurts from the image of Palin using "WE'RE PLAYING M-O-O-S-E now, baby!" as her rallying cry.

At 9/15/2008 7:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got my bracket all filled out... consulted a few scouting reports on Wikipedia, and I'm pretty confident in my predictions.

Biggest upset: 1st round, FDR vs. Shirly Chisholm. Dude's got polio. How's he gonna ball? Chisholm looks good like Yi Jianlian posting up a (wheel)chair, but in the next round, the unbelievable first step and finishing skills of JFK, which call to mind something between a young Dr. J and a healthy D-Wade, make Chisholm's party short-lived.

Most disappointing game: Really expecting something amazing in the Nixon/Reagan quarterfinals matchup, but Reagan's alzheimers makes him forget to call even the most blatant of Nixon's fouls. Nixon's got the talent to defy the laws of physics, and yet insists on defying the laws of basketball to gain the upper hand, which ultimately proves to be his downfall as he nearly gets disqualified for breaking into Honest Abe's hotel room to steal his playbook. Abe insists he won't take no "pussy ass shit" way out, demands to face Nixon anyway, and proceeds to beat the crap out of him on the blacktop.

Cinderella story: Woodrow Wilson advancing to the Democratic finals, picking off favorite LBJ in the first round, who surprisingly enough plays nothing like LeBron James, and more like a stiff old white dude, and beating the ultra-competitive Hillary Clinton on talent alone in the semis. Still, he too eventually falls to the unbelievable JFK.

Best game of the tourney: Teddy Roosevelt vs. Abraham Lincoln, Republican semifinals. Teddy is a tournament favorite due to his fanatically (some would say rabidly) strong defense and his ability to colonize and dominate the painted area, but matches up poorly against Lincoln, whose Allen-esque jumper is as smooth as his rhetorical skills, with ridiculous outside range. Lincoln makes it rain in their matchup, shooting over the head of a frustrated Roosevelt, but the real difference maker in the match comes from Lincoln's ability to block and alter shots with his tremendous wingspan and under-rated motor.

At 9/15/2008 8:24 PM, Blogger T. said...

knowing is maxo is correct. Dollar Bill Bradley not included in a presidential basketball tournament is an egregious oversight.

Also, I love that photo of Tricky Dick, as he is clearly over the line.

That's the Presidential Bowling Alley Obama said he'd turn into the Presidential Basketball Court.

At 9/15/2008 9:35 PM, Blogger Blogger said...

Ford got screwed by the committee. Dude was a great football player back when linemen were built like today's small forwards and remained a solid athlete into his sunset years. Lincoln/Ford debates would be no contest in favor of the Kentuckian cum Illinoisan, but all-state rassler versus All American footballer in hoops? That's a lot closer than the seeding would imply.

At 9/16/2008 1:18 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

JR Smith: Golfer.

JR Smith, Golfer.

Golfer--JR Smith.

I can't get my head around this.

At 9/16/2008 10:42 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

He's rich. Rich guys play golf.

At 9/16/2008 11:47 AM, Blogger Unknown said...


Rich guys don't play golf on shitty courses with guys wearing batting gloves. Only true duffers do. (It's very strange getting to talk about My People here on FD).

At 9/16/2008 3:17 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

Tom, I hadn't read the story when I made that comment. I retract.

At 9/16/2008 6:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That J.R. golf story made my day.

At 4/13/2009 2:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...




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