My White House Visit Diary
So here is where we’re at in America. The fastest growing sports/entertainment/humor/lifestyle/smut site on Earth gets denied access to a Super Bowl out of fear that we’ll make the country’s biggest sporting event funnier and more entertaining. But a Barstool writer asks for press credentials to go into the White House for the Patriots Super Bowl LI celebration, and it’s: Permission, granted. So we can’t go anywhere near Roger Goodell’s little beauty pageant, but I’m welcomed to walk aimlessly around the grounds of the place where our nuclear launch codes are kept. Only in America.
So yes, Jerry Thornton, Barstool Original 4 writer, Patriots blogger, Belichick Whisperer and history nerd got to be there in person to see the world’s most powerful man and one of the most successful, iconic businessmen of all time. Also, President Trump was there. A few observations.
It pains me to say it because I love this kind of stuff and wanted to visit the White House my whole life, but it’s kind of a dump. As one of the other Boston sports media guys I was hanging out with put it, it’s like a run down, past-its-prime B&B. Or as I put it, a slightly more shabby Barstool office. At least in the non-residence parts I had access to.
For instance, the is the press briefing room is tiny:
Packed from wall-to-wall with smelly White House beat reporters mixed with a few sports guys cramming in there to see what it’s like, making it like the hot box they stuffed Cool Hand Luke into for punishment. Not to mention, no wi-fi and no cell signal. The place where information is dispensed that is vital to everyone, where things that are said that affect the world economy, diplomatic relations, war and peace, life and death, has the cell capacity of back roads in rural Vermont. And about two electrical outlets, despite the fact that your battery drains like someone put a bullet through it.
Still, it is the frigging White House. This is where Jefferson played the piano. Where Lincoln struggled to save the Union. Where Teddy Roosevelt held a meeting in 1905 that saved college football from being outlawed. And Franklin Roosevelt conducted the war. Where Jack and Bobby Kennedy London Bridged Marilyn goddamned Monroe at the height of her powers. Where that nameless president knelt before Zod and President Whitmore escaped just before the aliens blew it up. Standing there feels like you’re wearing VR goggles, not reality. The place might be smaller and a little more beat up than you’re ready for, but so are a lot of landmarks. The Taj Mahal is smaller than your average Nantucket house, the Eiffel Tower is an erector set and the Vatican has a gift shop.
So I wasn’t going to be the only one not touristing the hell out of it. This last Super Bowl almost killed me, and we pass this way but once. So you’re not going to not do this:
There’s something unnerving about the White House. Like anything you do is scrutinized. There’s uniformed security, U.S. Marines, Secret Service in fatigues and in plain clothes, not to mention surveillance cameras, probably two-way mirrors and paintings with eyes that follow you like in Hogwarts. And all of the above seem like they’re prepared to vaporize you with an RPG from the rooftop is you so much as step on the wrong blade of grass. That said, they were really nice about their subtle, implied, constant threat to your life. You get more Jack Bauer attitude from your typical Starbucks barista.
Nevertheless, I connected with the WEEI crew, who seemed to know their way around, started opening doors and nosing around the press area. The place is loaded with photos of the Trumps like he’s two years into his second term. Now that I’m a credentialed member of the White House Press Corps, professional decorum prevents me from saying much more than Abigail Adams (Weymouth’s own) never took a portrait like this:
There was also this. Which, if I learned anything from 1960s TV, has a head that flips back and the switch underneath is the entrance to the Batcave:
When they finally had the ceremony on the South Lawn, I got a pretty good taste of how the media gets treated. By this White House, if not all of them. The press was led behind ropes roughly the distance of the Fenway right field bleachers away from the action. In front of the ropes were political insiders, VIPs and assorted connected swells. The good news is that lots of them were Stoolies. And I mean lots. I got more than a few “Viva” shouts, at least one “Saturdays are for the Boys,” and more “Old Balls!” than I felt like counting. I expect that at Pats training camp or bars around the Garden. Hearing it from people who are politically connected at the highest levels of our Executive Branch is a little unsettling. But at least we’re in the hands of people who read Sex Scandal Teacher blogs.
After most of the press filed out, Trump, the Krafts, Belichick and most of the Patriots came out on the balcony. Which, unless you were one of the camera guys fighting for space on the riser in the very back, was the first any of us saw of them:
At one point they literally pointed at us and Mr. Kraft yelled “There’s Jerry! We have to thank Jerry!” I shit you not, that happened. Granted, the WEEI guys were all convinced he was talking about Gerry Callahan, who humped for Trump on the air 20 hours a week and was standing three feet away from me. But I was able to perfectly triangulate our positions and I’m certain he meant me, hundred percent.
Before I left the grounds I did go for a “Mr. Kraft! Saturdays are …” but it fell on deaf ears from that distance. In fairness, this was my first attempt. I’ll get it right at next year’s Super Bowl LII celebration.