WASHINGTON, D.C -- The feel-good Monday at the White House for the Chicago Cubs was simply a continuation of a nine-week celebration since the team won the World Series. Whether it's outgoing President Barack Obama -- who happens to be a White Sox fan -- or the thousands who attended the fan convention in Chicago the previous three days, no one can get enough of these Cubs.
"It really was an amazing moment when the entire team gathered around waiting for a while, then the president and first lady bounded into the room with tremendous energy and gave heartfelt remarks," team president Theo Epstein recalled after the ceremony. "You could tell that this visit had a lot of personal meaning to them."
That's especially true for first lady Michelle Obama, who grew up on the South Side as a Cubs fan. As with so many kids who followed the team, day baseball and her father's love for the Cubs set her on her path as a fan. The emotion the first lady felt when the team broke its 108-year drought was the same as a fan who's never stepped foot in the White House. The win brought people together from all walks of life.
"It's worth remembering that throughout our history, sports has had this power to bring us together even when the country is divided," President Obama said. "Sports has changed attitudes and culture in ways that seem subtle but ultimately made us think differently about ourselves and who we are. ... Sports has a way of changing hearts in a way politics or business doesn't."
Epstein and Obama were the only two to speak during the official ceremony, and you get the feeling that if they switched jobs, they'd both still be successful with a little studying. In fact, one of the most entertaining moments of the day came when Obama praised Epstein while offering him a job as head of the Democratic National Committee.
"Good thing I signed a contract with Tom Ricketts," Epstein quipped. "He was kicking me, saying I can't leave. It was a kind offer, though."
Epstein then downplayed Obama's claim that the Cubs president is the best executive in baseball history.
"It was humbling and quite an honor," Epstein said. "I still have time to screw it up."
The Cubs are officially done celebrating their championship, and President Obama is saying goodbye to his job of the past eight years. The confluence of the two events was striking.
"It means so much more with his roots in Chicago and his final days in office," Epstein said. "I think everyone, no matter where you fall politically, can appreciate the dignity with which he served the country. He did an unbelievable job of handling the office and raising his family while here. Across the board, folks would agree he's very dignified and brought a lot of integrity to the office. It was a pleasure to thank him for that today."
Epstein has a lot of Obama in him. He's smart and can articulate a vision as well as anyone. But a higher office isn't in his cards.
"There are a lot of ways we can all impact our communities without running for office," Epstein said.
There will likely never be such a long championship drought for the Cubs, and they might never visit the White House again with a Chicagoan holding office. So for at least one day, Obama was a Cubs fan and the Cubs felt the love from a native son.
"He's so good on his feet and saying what's on his mind," Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. "[The first lady] did the same thing.
"You could feel the gravity and magnitude of being in the same room as the president, and his wife, of the United States."
The Cubs' trip to the White House coincided with Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the last days of the nation's first African-American president, which only added to the magnitude of their visit.
Cubs owner Tom Ricketts had the first word when he began to rebuild the team five years ago, so he gets the last one Monday, moments after the speeches in the East Room concluded.
"It was the best sports ceremony ever," Ricketts declared.