Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Delphic Dream

A Delphic Dream
Gregg Chadwick
A Delphic Dream
36"x18" oil on linen 2009

"As I entered the still bowl, bathed now in marble light, I came to that spot in the dead center where the faintest whisper rises like a glad bird and vanishes over the shoulder of the low hill, as the light of a clear day recedes before the black of night...."
- Henry Miller, The Colossus of Marousi

"For the initiated, there is unabashed wonder and humbleness before the sacred. It's as if you've surprised the secret lurking at the heart of the world."
- Phil Cousineau, The Art of Pilgrimage

Through Tibetan Eyes: Monks Urged by the Dalai Lama to Spend Losar Remembering

Today in Tibet is the start of the holiday Losar which is the Tibetan New Year. Losar (lo, year, sar, new) began as a pre-Buddhist observance in which rituals were performed each winter to appease the spirit protectors of the mountains. After Buddhism arrived in Tibet around the 6th century BCE, the holiday merged with Buddhist traditions. Since the 13th century, Losar has traditionally fallen on the first day of the first lunar month. It is usually a time of new beginnings and great celebration. But this year, the burgundy robed Tibetan Buddhist monks have been urged via cell phone text messages to mark the day with silence and prayer rather than celebration.

The Globe and Mail reports that "the movement to boycott the New Year's events is a highly organized one, originating from the Dalai Lama's home in exile in Dharamsala, in northern India."

"A lot of people were killed on March 14. In our culture, we don't celebrate Losar if someone in your family died during the previous year," said Thubbstan, a 24-year-old Tibetan monk who was passing through Chengdu this week.

Thubbstan referred to the pro-independence protests in Tibet last March that were brutally shut down by Chinese soldiers.
Many monks were killed in the violence.

"We cannot forget our fellow men who sacrificed for our benefit," reads a text message a Tibetan monk received on his cellphone several weeks ago. "To commemorate Losar, we will not celebrate, we will not fire fireworks, we won't wear new clothes, we won't dance, we won't sing. We will protest silently and we will pray."

Through Tibetan Eyes
Gregg Chadwick
Through Tibetan Eyes
72"x96" oil on linen 2008

More at:
We will protest silently and we will pray

Taking Back Our Losar

Monday, February 23, 2009

Screenwriter Dustin Black Honored for His Work on the Film Milk

"When I was 13 years old, my beautiful mother and my father moved me from a conservative Mormon home in San Antonio, Texas to California and I heard the story of Harvey Milk. And it gave me hope. It gave me the hope to live my life, it gave me the hope to one day live my life openly as who I am and that maybe even I could fall in love and one day get married." -- Dustin Lance Black, accepting an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, February 22

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day

Hope that your Valentine's Day was as wonderful as mine. Thought I would give you a few interesting statistics on the day from the site:

"According to the Greeting Card Association, an estimated one billion valentine cards are sent each year, making Valentine's Day the second largest card-sending holiday of the year. (An estimated 2.6 billion cards are sent for Christmas.)"

"Approximately 85 percent of all valentines are purchased by women."
Wow. Come on guys.

"In addition to the United States, Valentine's Day is celebrated in Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, France, and Australia."

"Valentine greetings were popular as far back as the Middle Ages (written Valentine's didn't begin to appear until after 1400), and the oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum. The first commercial Valentine's Day greeting cards produced in the U.S. were created in the 1840s by Esther A. Howland. Howland, known as the Mother of the Valentine, made elaborate creations with real lace, ribbons and colorful pictures known as "scrap".

More at:
History of Valentine's Day
History of Valentine's Day Video

Friday, February 13, 2009

Support for the Arts in the Economic Recovery bill!

From Americans for the Arts:

"Just moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives approved their final version of the Economic Recovery bill by a vote of 246-183. We can now confirm that the package DOES include $50 million in direct support for arts jobs through National Endowment for the Arts grants. We are also happy to report that the exclusionary Coburn Amendment language banning certain arts groups from receiving any other economic recovery funds has also been successfully removed. Tonight the Senate is scheduled to have their final vote, and President Obama plans to sign the bill on Monday - President's Day.

"This is an important victory for all of you as arts advocates. More than 85,000 letters were sent to Congress, thousands of calls were made, and hundreds of op-eds, letters to the editor, news stories, and blog entries were generated in print and online media about the role of the arts in the economy. Artists, business leaders, mayors, governors, and a full range of national, state, and local arts groups all united together on this advocacy issue. This outcome marks a stunning turnaround of events and exemplifies the power of grassroots arts advocacy.

"We would like to also thank some key leaders on Capitol Hill who really carried our voices into the conference negotiation room and throughout the halls of Congress: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-WI), House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Norm Dicks (D-WA), and Congressional Arts Caucus Co-Chair Louise Slaughter (D-NY). We also want to publicly thank President Obama for taking the early lead in recognizing the role of the arts in economic development. These leaders were able to convincingly make the case that protecting jobs in the creative sector is integral to the U.S. economy."

L.A. Calling: The Airborne Toxic Event Live in Hollywood on February 12, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event played at the Music Box @ the Henry Fonda Theater in Hollywood last night. The evening was a homecoming of sorts for The Airborne Toxic Event as members of many of their fellow bands from L.A. were in attendance. The sold out crowd at the concert spanned all ages from kids to grandparents which contributed to the musical reunion vibe. Mikel Jollett, the lead singer and writer, in his drive to connect with the audience, reminded me of a young Bono or Springsteen blended with the bittersweet romantic yearnings of Smiths era Morrissey. Mikkel has a gripping but sweetly humble stage presence that projects power but not swagger. Guitarist Steven Chen lays down a sonic field that gives air and space for Jollett's searching soul to roam. Chen's guitar opens up ambient washes as well as chiming lines that bring to mind the Australian band The Church and the vast spaces found in their song Under the Milky Way. But even with the lyrical guitar and all the strings on stage as Chen told Scott Timberg of the Los Angeles Times that he "always loved it when you take something really clean and proper sounding and dirty it up a little bit.” There is grit in the music as well as haunting desperation in the vocals.

Wishing Well

Lead singer, Mikel Jollett is as much a writer as a musician and I think this is what gives the band such great possibilities and at times can drive some critics to write poison pen letters to the band in place of honest reviews. The painter RB Kitaj faced similar antagonism when he dared to present his writing as on a par with his paintings.

R.B. Kitaj
Los Angeles No. 22
36 x 36 oil on canvas 2002

The longing and loss found at the end of a relationship or the end of a life is a shared human condition that artists strive to get down on paper, or canvas or in song. But, that strange mix of dread, fear, anger, resistance and ultimately letting go can prove elusive or even bathetic in an artistic setting. RB Kitaj's late paintings of love lost work for me as do Mikel Jollett's song stories. The lyrics to the song Sometime Around Midnight are darkly evocative and well worth a read on their own:

Sometime Around Midnight

And it starts sometime around midnight, or at least that's when you lose yourself for a minute or two. As you stand under the bar lights and the band plays some song about forgetting yourself for a while. And the piano's this melancholy sound track to her smile in that white dress she's wearing, you haven't seen her for a while.

But you know that she's watching. She's laughing, she's turning. She's holding her tonic like a cross.
The room suddenly spinning she walks up and asks how you are. So you can smell her perfume. You can see her lying naked in your arms.

And so there's a change in your emotions and all of these memories come rushing like feral waves to your mind: of the curl of your bodies like two perfect circles entwined.

And you feel hopeless, and homeless and lost in the haze of the wine.

Then she leaves with someone you don't know. But she makes sure you saw her she looks right at you and bolts, as she walks out the door, your blood boiling, your stomach in ropes.

And your friends say "What is it? You look like you've seen a ghost."

Then you walk under the streetlights. And you're too drunk to notice that everyone is staring at you.
You just don't care what you look like, the world is falling around you.

You just have to see her
You know that she'll break you in two.

On stage last night the song was riveting. Couples danced, wrapped tightly together in the packed crowd as if this could be their own swan song.

Sometime Around Midnight

The Airborne Toxic Event is at the cusp of stardom and at times Mikel seemed apologetic for their recent success, thanking the audience at numerous times for being there - almost as if he needed to remind himself where he was now and how much he and the band had gone through and how far they still have to travel. Near the end of the night Mikel slipped through the throng pressing up against the stage and climbed up onto a side ledge in full voice while violist Anna Bulbrook was held aloft by the crowd. Mikel invited those lining the stage to join the band for their finale of Missy. The first lines of the song are: "Missy got off the bus one day in a crowded depot in downtown L.A. She looked around as if to say: "I'm home." The band was home for one night only then off to San Francisco the next and on up to the Northwest as the current tour continues. But for that moment as the audience joined the band and danced onstage Mikel's vision of Los Angeles held sway. As he told Molly Bergen, "I love that it’s ... all of these cultures rammed up against each other. People who don't live here think LA is Hollywood. But there are 14 million people here from somewhere else: Salvadorian, Ethiopian, Korean, Armenian...we're just one giant civil stew. "

Echo Park (New Song - First Time Played in Los Angeles)
*These clips by okeastron2008 provide a brief intro to the band and the inspired performance.

More at:
TATE'S website
TATE on LAist


1. Paul Debraski writing about McSweeney's Issue #27 describes Mikel Jollett's short story in the issue:

"The story concerns a giant crack in the road of a major street of Los Feliz. The foursome gather their spelunking gear (so to speak) and decide to investigate this gigantic crack/sinkhole. As they dive in and discover a gigantic expanse of darkness, they become, obviously, very intrigued. Eventually some neuroses come to light. And, as they proceed further into the cave, they see some extraordinary things."

2. Molly Bergen in the LAist asked Mikel about the band's name:

I read that you took your name from the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo. For those of us who are unfamiliar with the work, what is that referring to?

In the novel The Airborne Toxic Event is a big cloud that is a result of a giant chemical explosion The huge poisonous cloud threatens a nearby town. The hero, Jack, gets exposed to it. He’s told by the doctors that he’s going to die. When he asks when the doctor says, "You may live a week you may live 40 years." Which is really unhelpful because that is true for everyone. The Airborne Toxic Event his fear of death. It changes him in these really important ways. The same thing happened to me in that year I formed the band with my mom dying and my own health problems.

200 (Lincoln)

200 (Lincoln)
Gregg Chadwick
200 (Lincoln)
10"x10" charcoal heightened with white conté on linen 2009

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Monday, February 09, 2009

The Airborne Toxic Event in Concert in Los Angeles on February 12, 2009

Update: My review of the show can be found at L.A. Calling: The Airborne Toxic Event Live in Hollywood on February 12, 2009

My brother, the Seattle (Bainbridge Island for the NW crowd) poet, Kent Chadwick recently sent a belated birthday present my way. In the Chadwick family all holiday presents are belated. So don't worry those gifts will be on their way soon. Inside the package was the amazing debut album by the Silver Lake band (Los Angeles for the NW crowd) The Airborne Toxic Event.
The Airborne Toxic Event will be playing in Hollywood on February 12. 2009 at The Henry Fonda Music Box. A few tickets may still be available at: Henry Fonda Music Box

Singer and guitarist Mikel Jollett leads the band, which takes its name from the novel White Noise by Don DeLillo. In the novel a chemical spill from a railcar releases a poisonous cloud, dubbed by the military as an “airborne toxic event.” DeLillo is the masterful novelist whose work includes Underworld, Mao II, The Body Artist and White Noise (which inspired my painting of the same title.)

White Noise
Gregg Chadwick
White Noise
60"x60" oil on linen 2002

Martin Robinson's recent article in
provides a rich introduction to the band:

The Airborne Toxic Event is centered around Mikel Jollett, "a man very much in the Springsteen mould of raw feeling, anthems and charismatic showmanship. Well, when his ex-girlfriends aren’t in the room, that is. Mikel looks panicked when we meet, and whispers, “The album was written about two girls, and they’re both here.” Yeah, as a former Philip Roth-obsessed fiction writer, he’s got a tendency to not hold back his songs, so his current girlfriend watches out for flying glasses while Mikel introduces us to The Airborne Toxic Event’s moustachioed, Naboo-ish drummer Daren and golden girl (not as in old, just, y’know, golden) violinist Anna. They’ve recently got back from a frankly mental 30 Shows in 30 Days UK tour, which proved to be a lesson in how classy Britain is. Highlights included playing on AstroTurf in a marquee in Hayle, being paid in food in Fife (Daren: “Dude, weird Scottish pies!”) and playing to one shaven-headed man with his trousers undone in Hull (Mikel: “He was staring at Anna. I was figuring out how to aim my guitar at his head if he touched her”).

"Mikel remembers how the US election changed how they were welcomed around the country. “I was walking in Camden the morning after and people were high-fiving me. Like, ‘You finally did something right!’” You could say (if you wanted) that Obama’s transforming of America’s image is being reflected in the way Mikel is trying to change the image of LA. As he introduces us to local legends The Movies, he insists, “Where we live has nothing to do with the Hollywood industry.” Certainly, in contrast to most hipster scenes, everyone is incredibly friendly."

The Airborne Toxic Event signed with a smaller record label, Majordomo Records, in April 2008,releasing their first self-titled record in August, 2008. In December iTunes named Sometime Around Midnight the best alternative song of 2008. In January 2009, the band appeared on David Letterman. (Video below)

Sometime Around Midnight with Calder Quartet on TV

Upon the release of their debut album, The Airborne Toxic Event received a hatchet job of a review by Ian Cohen on Pitchfork. In their best Bernard Black effort (see video below) the band sent an open letter to the critic.

An Open Letter to Pitchfork Media from the Airborne Toxic Event
By The Airborne Toxic Event • September 17, 2008

Dear Ian,

Thanks for your review of our record. It’s clear that you are a good writer and it’s clear that you took a lot of time giving us a thorough slagging on the site. We are fans of Pitchfork. And it’s fun to slag off bands. It’s like a sport — kind of part of the deal when you decide to be in a rock band. (That review of Jet where the monkey pees in his own mouth was about the funniest piece of band-slagging we’ve ever seen.)

Bernard Black's Rejection

We decided a long time ago not to take reviews too seriously. For one, they tend to involve a whole lot of projection, generally saying more about the writer than the band. Sort of a musical Rorschach test. And for another, reading them makes you too damned self-conscious, like the world is looking over your shoulder when the truth is you’re not a genius or a moron. You’re just a person in a band.

Plus, the variation of opinions on our record has bordered on absurd. 80 percent of what’s been said has been positive, a few reviews have remained on the fence and a few (such as yours) have been aggressively harsh. We tend not to put a lot of stock in this stuff, but the sheer disagreement of opinion makes for fascinating (if not a bit narcissistic) reading.

And anyway we have to admit that we found ourselves oddly flattered by your review. I mean, 1.6? That is not faint praise. That is not a humdrum slagging. That is serious fist-pounding, shoe-stomping anger. Many publications said this was among the best records of the year. You seem to think it’s among the worst. That is so much better than faint praise.

You compare us to a lot of really great bands (Arcade Fire, the National, Bright Eyes, Bruce Springsteen) and even if your intention was to cut us down, you end up describing us as: “lyrically moody, musically sumptuous and dramatic.” One is left only to conclude that you must think those things are bad.

We love indie rock and we know full well that Pitchfork doesn’t so much critique bands as critique a band’s ability to match a certain indie rock aesthetic. We don’t match it. It’s true that the events described in these songs really happened. It’s true we wrote about them in ways that make us look bad. (Sometimes in life you are the hero, and sometimes, you are the cuckold. Sometimes you’re screaming about your worst fears, your most vicious jealousies and failures. Such is life.) It’s also true that the record isn’t ironic or quirky or fey or disinterested or buried beneath mountains of guitar noodling.

As writers, we admire your tenacity and commitment to your tone (even though you do go too far with your assumptions about us). You’re wrong about our intentions, you’re wrong about how this band came together, you don’t seem to get the storytelling or the catharsis or the humor in the songs, and you clearly have some misconceptions about who we are as a band and who we are as people.

But it also seems to have very little to do with us. Much of your piece reads less like a record review and more like a diatribe against a set of ill-considered and borderline offensive preconceptions about Los Angeles. Los Angeles has an extremely vibrant blogging community, Silver Lake is a very close-knit rock scene. We are just one band among many. (And by the way, L.A. does have a flagship indie rock band: they’re called Silversun Pickups). We cut our teeth at Spaceland and the Echo and have nothing to do with whatever wayward ideas you have about the Sunset Strip. That’s just bad journalism.

But that is the nature of this sort of thing. It’s always based on incomplete information. Pitchfork has slagged many, many bands we admire (Dr. Dog, the Flaming Lips, Silversun Pickups, Cold War Kids, Black Kids, Bright Eyes [ironic, no?] just to name a few), so now we’re among them. Great.

This band was borne of some very very dark days and the truth is that there is something exciting about just being part of this kind of thing. There’s this long history of dialogue between bands and writers so it’s a bit of a thrill that you have such a strong opinion about us.

We hear you live in Los Angeles. We’d love for you to come to a show sometime and see what we’re doing with these lyrically moody and dramatic songs. You seem like a true believer when it comes to music and writing so we honestly think we can’t be too far apart. In any case, it would make for a good story.

all our best–

Mikel, Steven, Anna, Daren, Noah
the Airborne Toxic Event

Below is the review, from the front page of Pitchfork:

The Airborne Toxic Event: The Airborne Toxic Event
[Majordomo; 2008]
Rating: 1.6

I probably couldn’t get anyone here in Los Angeles to admit it, but the city lacks a flasgship upstart indie band and wants one in the worst way—one both a little fresher than Spin cover stars Beck and Rilo Kiley and with more mainstream potential than the bands from the Smell. The onus would likely fall on the folkier, cuddlier Silver Lake/Los Feliz scene, but over the past three years it feels as if the area’s bands have failed to rise to the occasion.

It’s no surprise that many are betting the house on the Airborne Toxic Event– their debut album is lyrically moody, musically sumptuous, and dramatic. Their name is even a transparent DeLillo reference, and every one of the 10 tracks sounds like it can be preceded with radio chatter. The Airborne Toxic Event have done their homework. But unless you’re a certain French duo, homework rarely results in good pop music, and The Airborne Toxic Event is an album that’s almost insulting in its unoriginality; while the sound most outsiders attribute to Los Angeles has been marginalized to Metal Skool and the average customer at the Sunset Boulevard Guitar Center, TATE embodies the Hollywood ideal of paying lip service to the innovations of mavericks while trying to figure out how to reduce it to formula.

Throughout, the Airborne Toxic Event show a surface-level familiarity with early 00s critics lists, but aren’t able to convey what made those much-lauded recods emotionally resonant. Can’t convert unthinkable tragedy into cathartic, absolutely alive music like Arcade Fire? Just steal the drum pattern from “Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)”? Can’t connect with the listener with the same fourth-wall busting intimacy as Bright Eyes? That’s when you trot out the run-on sentences and get all tremulous when you mean it, man. And that’s just the first song. Not privy to the Strokes’ accidental poetry and concise songwriting? Get a distorted microphone. Want a hit as big as “Mr. Brightside”, but take yourself too seriously to conjure a semblance of juicy melodrama? Grab a half-assed disco beat and boom, you’re now ready to write the limpdicked cuckold behind “Does This Mean You’re Moving On?”

And while it’s understandable that a debut should owe such enormous debts, what really rankles is the unrelenting entitlement that assumes cred via sonic proximity– it’s the musical equivalent of showing up to a bar with a bad fake ID and throwing a hissy-fit when you get carded. While lead singer Mikel Jollett can alternately sound like Paul Banks, Win Butler, Conor Oberst, or Matt Berninger, what ties the LP together is quite possibly the most unlikeable lyric book of the year, rife with empty dramatic signifiers, AA/BB simplicity, and casual misogyny. If Social Distortion did Bruce Springsteen instead of callow Johnny Cash fan fic, you might get the lock-limbed anti-rock of “Gasoline”, but my god– “We were only 17/ We were holding back our screams/ Like we tore it from the pages of some lipstick magazine.” Before you can comprehend just how clichéd and yet somehow meaningless that line is, by the next hook he’s replaced “screams” with “dreams” and “lipstick” with “girlie,” before he’s “only 21 [and] not having any fun.” Then something about “bullets from a gun.”

If only that were the low point. It pains me to pan “Sometime Around Midnight” on concept alone because, man, we’ve all been there. Stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before: There’s a club if you’d like to go…except maybe when you go home and cry and want to die, and it reduces you to putting your thoughts on paper in rhyme form. The next morning, you thank god no one’s seen it but you. The Airborne Toxic Event aren’t so private, alas. As the ill-fated narrator sees his ladyfriend in a “white dress” “holding a tonic like a cross” while “a piano plays a melancholy soundtrack to her smile” (what bars do these guys go to?). He imagines holding her naked “like two perfect circles entwined.” After five minutes pass, she leaves with “some man you don’t know” and then your friends look at you “like you’ve seen a ghost.” There’s a possibility this is just a po-mo exercise, writing a song about writing a song about how some girl not wanting to fuck you is some sort of epic human calamity, but judging by the out-of-nowhere string section that opens the thing for the first minute, I doubt these guys are playing. It begins a stunning about-face that finds the band spending the rest of the record trying to be Jimmy Eat World.

In a way, The Airborne Toxic Event is something of a landmark record: This represents a tipping point where you almost wish Funeral or Turn on the Bright Lights or Is This It? never happened as long as it spared you from horrible imitations like this one, often sounding more inspired by market research than actual inspiration. Congrats, Pitchfork reader– the Airborne Toxic Event thinks you’re a demographic.

- Ian Cohen, September 17, 2008

Ian Cohen's efforts seemed to have failed as the band and their music grow in popularity and influence. I will be at their show on Thursday, More thoughts to follow ...

For Valentine's Day: Because the Night

An early Valentine for my wife ...

Monday, February 02, 2009

Jerry Brown: The Once and Future Governor

Jerry Brown has decided to run for governor of California. Again. And I think California needs him again. Jerry Brown had the vision to select the eminent artist Don Bachardy to paint his official Governor's portrait. I consider it to be the best American political portrait painting of the 20th century.

Don Bachardy
Portrait of Governor Jerry Brown
oil on canvas
California State Capitol Museum, Sacramento, California

Don Bachardy painting a portrait of his partner, the writer Christopher Isherwood
photo by Jack Shear

Guido Santi and Tina Mascara's recent film, "Chris & Don: A Love Story", chronicles the relationship between painter Don Bachardy and writer Christopher Isherwood. The film includes a series of interviews with Bachardy (who still lives in the Santa Monica home he shared with Isherwood) as well as images and home movies and fleeting re-enactments of the men in their younger days.

More on Jerry Brown from his official bio:
The son of former Governor Pat Brown, Jerry Brown was born in San Francisco in 1938. At age three, he became the youngest person to climb Yosemite's Ledge Trail. Brown's education included studies at the Jesuit Seminary, a law degree from Yale, and degrees in Latin and Greek from U.C. Berkeley. A lawyer, he eventually served on the L.A. School Board and as Secretary of State. As Governor, he had revolutionary ideas about state spending and refused to live in the huge new governor's mansion - renting a modest apartment instead, and nixing the governor's limousine in favor of a state-issued Plymouth. Brown was a leader in energy efficiency, sponsored and signed the first labor laws in the U.S. to protect farmworkers, and began the California Conservation Corps. His appointments emphasized minorities and women, echoing the social awareness of his era.

Jerry's official bio:
Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown 34th Governor, Democrat (1975-1983)

A Day for Americana: Superbowl XLIII

American Football is a quintessential athletic pursuit in suburban backyards, city streets, High Schools and universities throughout the United States. The Superbowl, pro football's yearly championship game and advertising spectacle, couples a love of spectator sports with a tongue in cheek embracement of the glitz and promise of America's over the top consumer culture. The advertisements played during the Superbowl telecast can be quite funny and also quite revealing. It is as if the advertisers pull back the curtain, just once a year, to reveal the holy relics of our shared nation. And sometimes, though rarely, the actual game played on the field overshadows the games planned in corporate boardrooms in the months leading up to the event. Yesterday, the game and the halftime show won out.

James Harrison intercepts a Kurt Warner pass and returns it 100 yards for a touchdown to end the first half.
John Biever/SI

Before the game, NBC's Matt Lauer interviewed President Obama:

Matt Lauer Q Let’s talk about this game today. You came out --- and most Presidents don’t pick a team -- you came right out and you said, look, I know the Rooneys, they’ve been good friends of mine, they endorsed me. I think you got the AFC championship ball --

President Obama: I did.

Matt Lauer Q So you said, other than my dear Bears, they’re closest to my heart. But I’m having a hard time understanding how you, of all people, wouldn’t associate with the Cardinals.

President Obama: Underdog --

Matt Lauer Q I mean, it is a Cinderella story, the team that came from nowhere to the big game –- the audacity of hope.

President Obama: Not to mention the fact that Kurt Warner is close to my age. (Laughter.)

Matt Lauer Q Right, exactly. How can you turn your back on the Cardinals?

President Obama: I love Kurt Warner’s story. I love -- Larry Fitzgerald seems like just a wonderful young man. It’s a great story. But Rooney didn’t just endorse me -- that guy was out going to steel plants campaigning for me. Franco Harris was out waving towels at my rallies.

Matt Lauer Q Do you have a Terrible Towel* in the other room?

President Obama: I do, actually, so

Matt Lauer Q Are you going to be waving them at the party?

President Obama: I’m not going to be rubbing it in, we’ve got some Arizona congressmen here and I may need their vote on the recovery package. (Laughter.)

Matt Lauer Q Give me a score –- what’s the score going to be in this game?

President Obama: You know, it’s tough to predict, but I think the Steelers are going to eke it out in a close one.

George Wesley Bellows (1882-1925) (Attended The Ohio State University)
Hold 'Em
22¼" x 21" India ink and crayon on assembled paper 1912
Football remains as much a display of strength and passion today as it did in 1912 when George Bellows created his drawing, Hold 'Em .

Kurt Warner was harassed by the Pittsburgh defense throughout the first half.
Simon Bruty/SI

XLIII Halftime Part I
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with the Miami Horns
10th Avenue Freeze Out, Born to Run

XLIII Halftime Part II
Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band with the Miami Horns
Born to Run, Working On A Dream, Glory Days

Larry Fitzgerald scores late to give the Cardinals the lead and the win?
Bob Rosato/SI

Ben Roethlisberger gets instructions from Head Coach Mike Tomlin
For the Pittsburgh Steelers individual victory was secondary to the triumph of the team, the city and the joy of competition.
John W. McDonough/SI

Santonio Holmes (Attended The Ohio State University) channels Lynn Swann and pulls in the winning touchdown.
Al Tielemans/SI

Jerome Sherman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote:

President Obama "has noted that prominent members of the Steelers team supported his upstart candidacy last year, including owner Dan Rooney and the legendary running back from the Steeler's teams of the 1970's Franco Harris.

"Coach signed up with you, too," Vice President Joseph R. Biden, a Scranton native who is also rooting for the Steelers, reminded Mr. Obama.

"Right, Coach [Mike] Tomlin was a supporter," Mr. Obama said. "So I, you know, I wish the best to the Cardinals. They've been long-suffering; it's a great Cinderella story. But other than the Bears, the Steelers are probably the team that's closest to my heart."

Mr. Obama spent most of his adult life in Chicago. He even pronounces "Bears" like a native of the Windy City. But he was born and raised in Hawaii, thousands of miles from the hometown of any NFL team. He has told interviewers that, as a teenager in the 1970s, he became a fan of the Steelers of Harris and Bradshaw.

Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers, returned the favor last year.

"This is the greatest speech I've seen since John Kennedy," Mr. Rooney told his son, Jim, in a phone conversation after watching Mr. Obama's victory rally following the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. "This guy connects with people like no one I've seen since John Kennedy. He convinced me that this is more than just a good politician. I want to stand up and say something for this guy. I want to be involved in this."

"In his formal letter of endorsement, Mr. Rooney said that Mr. Obama "has inspired me and so many other people around our country with new ideas and fresh perspectives. True sports fans know that you support your team even when they are underdogs," Mr. Rooney wrote. "Barack Obama is the underdog here but it is with great pride that I join his team."

"Mr. Rooney stumped in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia, riding on campaign buses on most Saturdays with his son Jim. At a rally before 15,000 people in the Mellon Arena in October, Mr. Rooney presented Mr. Obama with a black Steelers jersey emblazoned with the candidate's name and the number 08.

"Last week, Mr. Rooney traveled to Washington, D.C., to present Mr. Obama with a game ball from the Steelers AFC championship victory over the Baltimore Ravens."

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Jerome Sherman in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Game Photos courtesy Peter Read Miller/SI, John Biever/SI, John W. McDonough/SI, Bob Rosato/SI, Al Tielemans/SI, Simon Bruty/SI