Can Obama Really Ball? Sherman Alexie's New Book Raises Questions

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At Sherman Alexie's late-night reading at Elliott Bay Book Company last night, the Seattle author's first selection was a short story following a man coming to grips with how terrible at basketball his friend and teammate "Big Ed" is.

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The short-story, "Midnight Basketball," is contained in Alexie's new collection "Blasphemy" and includes a great debate over whether President Obama, the b-baller in chief, can actually play.

It's a question I've often wondered myself - how much of the hype you can believe - and through his protagonist's voice, Alexie also seems to be skeptical.

Ed, the horrendous basketball player, gets inspiration from Obama's basketball prowess, citing videos of the president driving down the lane and a front-page New York Times photograph of Obama putting up a lay-up.

"That's photographic evidence," Ed surmises.

But the protagonist, contends the photograph used an optical illusion to make Obama's 3 inch vertical seem like something more impressive, and contents the only people who guard him are his body guards.

"They're not meant to stop him. They're meant to stop other people from getting TO him," he says. [Editor's note: the book did not get released until midnight, hence the late-night nature of the reading. I bailed early and book-less, so these quotes are as I heard them last night, and not from the text.]

At another point, he is left saying: "He's motherfucking POTUS."

I ducked out as the reading - which packed the house on Capitol Hill - approached midnight, so I can't say whether Alexie said any more about Obama's much-publicized skills on the court. But as Paul Ryan likes to say about Medicare reform, I think it's a conversation this nation needs to have.

Do you think Obama's skills are for real?

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