Obama to Super Bowl Champs: 'You Didn't Build That'

No, of course he didn’t say that. But what if he had? And why is it any less appropriate to tell a sports hero that than a small business owner?

Imagine for a moment an alternate universe where the President talked smack to the Giants …


“..Look, if you’ve been successful, you didn’t get there on your own. You didn’t get there on your own.”

Or, “I’m always struck by people who think, well, it must be because I was just so [talented]. There are a lot of [talented] people out there.”

Or, “It must be because I worked harder than everybody else. Let me tell you something — there are a whole bunch of hardworking people out there.”

Or, “If you were successful, somebody along the line gave you some help. There was a great teacher [or coach] somewhere in your life. Somebody helped to create this unbelievable American system that we have that allowed you to thrive. Somebody invested in roads and bridges [and stadiums]. If you’ve got a [championship] — you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen.”

No, he didn’t tell the Giants that because it would have been rude and ungracious. He didn’t tell them that because they are heroes.

On June 8, President Obama welcomed the New York Giants, champions of Super Bowl XLVI in a Rose Garden ceremony. Here are some excerpts of his remarks:

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody! (Applause.) Everybody, please have a seat. Welcome to the White House, and congratulations to the Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. (Applause.)

We’ve got some members of Congress and members of my administration who are here today and rabid Giants fans. I want to also recognize the Maras and the Tischs, as well as, of course, head coach Tom Coughlin and general manager Jerry Reese. They have built this team into one of the NFL’s most outstanding franchises. So we are very proud of them. (Applause.) …

Now, [Coach Tom Coughlin]’s a tough guy. And you can see that toughness reflected in everybody else on this team. The Giants took a whole bunch of hits this season, but they never went down. From day one, they followed a simple motto: Finish. Finish the play. Finish the game. Finish the season.

And after week 15, sitting at 7-7, they knew that every game was a playoff game. But the players, the coaches, the staff, the owners — they didn’t quit. They believed in each other. And they kept winning, all the way to Indianapolis.

… Eli Manning led the way, earned his second Super Bowl MVP. (Applause.) So I would just advise the sportswriters out there the next time Eli says he thinks he’s an elite quarterback, you might just want to be quiet. (Applause.)

Eli wasn’t alone, of course. Justin Tuck got to the QB. Victor Cruz scored and salsaed. (Applause.) Mario Manningham kept his feet inbounds for the biggest catch of his life. Nobody was perfect, but everybody did their job. And when the Patriots’ Hail Mary hit the ground, the Giants were Super Bowl champions. Of course, the fans back home went crazy.


The President went on to say that the Giants give back to the community by fighting childhood obesity (“Michelle likes that”), sending food to homeless shelters, and working with Make-a-Wish. Bully for them, and congrats to the Giants organization and the NFL for encouraging those worthy activities. He also noted Wellington Mara’s service and the long tradition of the Giants supporting the military. I am sincerely glad that they do.

Entrepreneurs and successful business people can be heroes. Several of them are my personal heroes, having touched my life through their mentorship, a gift of kindness with no expectation of a return, a reward, or even thanks. I daresay their commitment to the military (including military service) and their commitment to charitable and community causes matches the Giants’.

Several times a year, President Obama congratulates popular sports millionaires as heroes, lauding the success they have earned by virtue of their natural gifts, their hard work, their toughness and their commitment. That’s entirely appropriate.

Small businessmen, risk takers and entrepreneurs are the primary engine of job growth in our economy. Few if any are looking for public adulation. They just want a fair and predictable return on their investment. By demonizing them and asking them to carry an ever-greater share of the load, politicians like Obama discourage their participation.


It’s easy to see why creating jobs is so frustrating a task for Obama: he doesn’t know the first thing about job creation.

Cross-posted at Maley’s Energy Blog.


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