Barack-ing the Winter Classic: Will Obama appear at Wrigley?

Obamamania in Chicago has reached a point in which the President-Elect's old neighborhood haunts are becoming tourist destinations -- people are actually seeking out the Hyde Park Hair Salon & Barber Shop to get their hair trimmed in the same barber's chair where Barack Obama has for years.

He's as much an icon in the Windy City as the Sears Tower, the Magnificent Mile and Wrigley Field, where the Detroit Red Wings will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the NHL's Winter Classic on Jan. 1, 2009. That's a few weeks before things start to get really busy for Obama, so the Blackhawks see an opportunity: Could the President Elect attend the Winter Classic at Wrigley?

Team President John McDounough is trying to make it happen. From Ken Campbell of The Hockey News (sub. required), via Puck The Media:

Among those the Hawks hope will take in the game is Chicagoan Barack Obama, who at that time will be 19 days away from being inaugurated as the 44th president of the United States. Obama is an avowed White Sox fan and even though McDounough worked for the Cubs, he's working on some of the people in Obama's camp.

Not sure about Presidents-Elect, but sitting Presidents have taken part in major sporting events, like baseball's opening day, for decades. As a fan, you deal with the extra security, cheer if you like him, politely clap if you don't, watch the Prez take part in a ceremony and then it's game-on. No one feels like a unwilling campaign prop; you just feel like part of the American tradition and fanfare for a few moments.

Because we know you'll ask: There is a significant difference between turning your regular season hockey game into a campaign stop and having the President-Elect potentially appear at a major event that benefits the entire League.

The decision by Republican donors who own NHL teams to invite Gov. Sarah Palin to drop ceremonial pucks before St. Louis Blues and Philadelphia Flyers games was disgraceful during a contentious election -- especially in what were considered "swing states."

Having a sitting President or President-Elect attend a signature event for the NHL is still uncomfortably mixing politics with professional sports; but its validity, honor and import are radically different. It'll be a sideshow to the spectacle, rather than a spectacle that detracts from the game.

Besides, it's roughly 4,370 miles from Wasilla to Philadelphia; Obama's a hometown boy for the Blackhawks. Here's the real question: Would they still invite Obama if he Barack'd his Red Wings sweater to the Classic?

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