In 1994, when I was a freshman at Ohio University, if you would have told me that someday I would stand on College Green while the black President of the United States congratulated the Ohio Bobcat football team on its 7-0 undefeated season, I would have said that there is no way in our lifetime we will ever see a 7-0 undefeated Ohio Bobcat football team. But it happened, and I was there, and it was pretty cool.
On Wednesday evening President Obama addressed thousands of Ohio University students and Athens residents in front of the pillars of Memorial Auditorium. He spoke for half an hour, and he acknowledged Ohio University directly at the top of the speech by praising Frank Solich’s AP Top 25 program, saying, “I heard your football team is fun to watch. They’re undefeated. They might win the MAC. They might go to the BCS.” Obama then took credit for pushing for a college football playoff system and said if it was up to his opponent, Mitt Romney, there wouldn’t even be college football; the only sport would be “The Hunger Games.”
OK, he didn’t really say that. But Obama did use his speech, which came less than 24 hours after their town hall meeting clash in New York, to repeatedly paint Romney as this guy:
The president referenced Romney’s binder gaffe from last night’s town hall meeting, saying, “We don’t need to order up some binders to find talented women.” But just like a politician, Obama did not offer his own plan on where to find talented women outside of binders, much to the dismay of the fraternity guys standing in front of me.
The president said that he has a plan to get the American economy back on track, unlike his opponent, whose plan will destroy the American economy and leave every Ohioan eating “dirt sandwiches off plates of field straw and sadness.”
The president also repeatedly said that it’s time to start nation-building here at home, and that Mitt Romney will not rest until “every bridge in America is like that bridge at the end of the movie ‘Speed’ that’s not finished and that one-emotion actor guy has to jump it with the chick from ‘The Blind Side.’”
The president also used the appearance to remind Ohioans that Osama bin Laden is still dead.
Well, I have to assume it was the president who said all that. Although I arrived an hour-and-a-half before the event started and stayed for his entire speech, I never saw him. Thousands of us on College Green didn’t. We can only assume that the voice we heard came from the leader of the free world and not Fred Armisen.
The president’s podium was down a hill and surrounded by stands. Unless you arrived much earlier than my wife and I did, your view pretty much looked like this.
This was a disappointment. Although I did not harbor the illusion that I would get to shake the president’s hand (like I once did with Bill Clinton at the White House), I did think that I would at least get to see the president in person (as I once saw Hillary Clinton speak here at campus) or, at the very least, watch him on a giant screen (as I did at the 2000 Bush inaugural.) As it stands, I can only claim to have stood a couple hundred feet away from President Obama once for about 30 minutes without ever having seen him with my own eyes.
If he had shown up today sporting, say, a shocking facial tattoo, there is no way I would have known it. Everyone at The Pub would have been like, “I can’t believe the president’s facial tattoo. Did you see it?” Then I would have had to lie and say I totally saw it, when I had not.
Here’s what I did see today:
A couple bros pre-gaming
The line from College Green went down Union through the Buffalo Wild Wings men’s room, around the bar, out the side door and down to Richland.
The Wall welcomed The Prez.
Hey! What happened to making every day Earth Day?
If this is on the ballot, I am voting against it.
I am not sure whose side this guy is on.
With a name like Donkey Coffee, you’d hope so.
video audio of Obama’s speech in Athens, Ohio. (Yeah, the camera work is awful, but what are you missing out on? The back of a bunch of people’s heads?)
There was, sadly, not a single mention of the Burrito Buggy, or the fact that Paul Ryan went to Miami.
But that’s OK.
Thank you, President Obama, for visiting Ohio University. It was a historic event, and I’m glad I partook in it. This is how I will always remember you.
Joe Donatelli is a journalist who currently lives in Athens, Ohio. Follow him on Twitter @joedonatelli.
Top photo by @heatherbartman, who had much, much better seats than I did.