January 24th, 2010
07:47 AM ET

Dear President Obama #370: Being on ... and off ... the field

Reporter's Note: President Obama likes sports, and so do I. He also reads letters. And I write them…every day to the White House. Even when the Saints are playing, and that is saying something.

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Tom Foreman | BIO
AC360° Correspondent

Dear Mr. President,

You know of course what today is, and as you might expect we’re all pretty crazy at our house. Yes, the Saints are going at it for the conference championship, and maybe, maybe, maybe a trip to the Super Bowl. (btw, Word just tried to make me change Super Bowl to Superb Owl…ha!)

All my old New Orleans pals and I have been playing amateur sports analysts all week (is there any other kind?) trying to handicap the Saints against the Vikings. We’ve been talking about the run versus the pass, the defensive strengths and offensive weaknesses, and of course Brees versus Favre. It’s really been kind of comical; as if we expect at some point in the middle of the game the coaches are going to call for our advice.

Having helped my daughters’ soccer teams a bit, I have learned this about the coaching business: Whatever we think as fans in the stands, it is a whole different ball game when you are on the field. At home, we can take a leisurely stroll to the kitchen for nachos between plays, while spouting off about what we would do if we were the coaches. But on the sideline, everything is happening at lightning speed. Decisions have to be made right now, under pressure, with everything on the line, and that is nothing at all like the experience of any spectator.

I suspect it is that way for presidents, too. It is terribly easy for all of us to sit out here and think we know what you should have done a month ago, or ought to do now. We have the luxury of considering all the options, waxing poetic about our policy notions, and then going out for pasta, because frankly nothing is really riding on our opinions. If I make a wrong prediction, even in print, I may get a nasty letter or two; but the dollar won’t plunge, stocks won’t catch on fire, and foreign countries won’t order more ammunition as a result.

This is an area in which I think we ought to give all presidents a little more breathing room. We ought to let them be wrong more often, without hammering them so badly about it later. If a president shows that he is willing to admit his mistakes, learn from them, and adjust his plans…well, that seems like the kind of leader we would want.

On the other hand, the president who doggedly holds to what seems to be a flawed course, even as the opposition piles up points against him; well, that leader is just inviting a lot of Monday morning quarterbacks into his space.

It’s a tough balance, and one that I imagine you are thinking about a lot these days. My only advice from up in the stands is this: Hold firm to what you believe is right; admit what you suspect is wrong; and change your direction to the degree you think proper. After all, for all the critics, you are the one on the field.

Anyway, whatever you do, please do not call during the game. Seriously. I know you are the president and all, but hey…it’s the Saints. And if they win (oh please, please, please) don’t be bothered by the crackling noise late in the night. That will be the blessed sound of hell freezing over. And we Saints fans have waited for that a very long time.



Follow Tom on Twitter @tomforemancnn.

Find more of the Foreman Letters here.

soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. stickb

    I agree with your comment, but young men everyday have to make split second life-saving decisions in the Military in some foreign land, which they are paid little for. I want to say that he is paid very well to make decisions, and hopefully he knew what he was getting himself into, preasure he is feeling is nothing like those young men feel overseas..trust me!

    January 24, 2010 at 11:58 am |
  2. Susan K, Highland Park IL

    Great piece! Maybe you can use this again when the Cubs get to a Championship...save it! Just in case 🙂

    January 24, 2010 at 10:56 am |
  3. Tim Gibson

    As we all know, a single fumble can lose the game leading to more jears than cheers.

    January 24, 2010 at 10:00 am |
  4. Shelley

    Oh Tom! Such a gr8 sense of humor you have. Incidently, I am rooting for the Saints as well. Just remember miracles do happen. 🙂

    January 24, 2010 at 9:21 am |
  5. Arlene Lantz

    Great bi-partisan advice! Go Saints!

    January 24, 2010 at 9:16 am |
  6. femtrell moore

    Very well put. We should ALL play our positions.

    January 24, 2010 at 8:30 am |