Obama’s Backhanded Economists: Reporter’s (Sweaty) Notebook

Photograph by Bloomberg

White House economists, Alan Krueger and Gene Sperling, left, versus Team Bloomberg, Hans Nichols and Peter Cook, right. Note the relative trophies. Photo: Bloomberg News

As a Washington journalist, there’s only one thing worse than being beaten on a White House story: Being beaten by the White House itself.

Last night, my Bloomberg colleague Hans Nichols and I faced off on the tennis court with the president’s top economic minds, National Economic Council Director Gene Sperling and Council of Economic Advisers Chairman Alan Krueger. It was a celebrity death match in the first annual Washington Kastles Charity Classic. And, as we quickly learned, the two policy wonks also happen to be tennis wonks.

Things started off well for us. During warm-ups, I sensed Sperling was rattled when the PA system started playing Kid Rock’s “Born Free”, the soundtrack of the Romney campaign. Krueger was clearly intimidated by Hans’ Cornell tennis pedigree and his blue headband. Less intimidating was my backhand.

Still I was confident my family and the hundreds of paying fans were about to witness my Wimbledon moment under the bright lights of the Kastles’ center court.

My SportCenter dream quickly fizzled into reality.

Sperling played at the University of Minnesota, and his skills were on display early. He may be struggling to pay for all of the president’s economic priorities, but his serve is money. With his Harvard economics PhD and solid ground strokes, there was no slack in Krueger’s game either.

Their steady play overwhelmed Team Bloomberg’s unforced errors, and we went down to defeat 7-4 in the brief tie-breaker.

“The key was, when we were about to serve, Hans was looking for someone in the administration to leak which way our serve was going, and when he didn’t have that option he really had no game,” Sperling said afterwards.

I still think we could have won, if only I had worn a headband as well, and perhaps paid for a lesson within the last 45 years.

Adding insult to injury, Sperling and Krueger’s “Stars” squad ended up beating our “Stripes” team in the overall competition.

The good news is the event raised money for three good causes, and I can proudly say I played on the same team as Redskin great Darrell Green at least for one night.

We’re already looking forward to a rematch next year, but only if Team White House can win an election first.

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