If this keeps up, President Carter may become Washington's good luck charm in a Big Game.
The president, his wife Rosalynn and daughter Amy attended the Washington Bullet's 100-94 victory over the Atlanta Hawks in a National Basketball Association play-off game at Capital Centre yesterday.
Carter's Washington won-lost record now is 2-0. Last October, he watched the Redskins beat the Dallas Cowboys, 9-5, at RFK Stadium.
While the football visit was suspected to be a made-for-media event, coming as it did on national television the week after the Camp David agreement, yesterday's trip was more a case of pure fun for the president.
He could root for both sides.
Peanut farmers from Georgia who live in the White House can be forgiven a day's ambivalence when Atlanta plays Washington for the right to stay in the NBA playoffs.
"I have to admit," Carter said on a halftime interview with CBS-TV, "that I've been a Hawks' fan from the first day they started playing, and I can't betray my hometown team."
But he sat with Bullet owner Abe Pollin and his wife Irene, who, along with the team, were White House guests last June after winning the NBA championship.
Carter said, "These are two tremendous, competent, exciting teams."
So exciting, in fact, that in the last few minutes of a game that could have been won by either team, Carter turned to Pollin and said:
"My hands are getting wet. Abe, look at my hand. This stuff makes me nervous."
The Carter family, along with Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz), who was an All-America basketball player in college, arrived at Capital Centre by helicopter and drove into the arena.
They arrived shortly before game time.
"I got a call on Thursday from Hamilton Jordan, who said he didn't know who to call, and so he was going to the top man," Pollin said. "He said the president wanted to come to our game, and was it okay?"
Carter's interest in basketball has been a well-kept secret. Stock car drivers have parked in front of the White House and, if we believe former speech writer Jim Fallows, Carter is a dictator on the tennis courts. He even jogs up to 10 miles a day.
Carter is the first president to attend an NBA game. Soon after he was seated, he met a dachshund, Tiny, the Bullet's mascot.
"The president rembered us," said John (Chief) Gentry, Tiny's keeper."He held up a finger, like, 'We're No. 1.' gave Amy two Bullet T-shirts, a button that said, 'We're the Best-Dog-gone Team in the NBA,' and a replica of our championship ring."
Carter moved from his arena seat in the last minute of the game, to get a head start on traffic, but he stood at courtside until the game ended.
As convincing proof of his political acumen, Carter accomplished a tough chore during a game that was so exciting it made his palms perspire.
"He stayed neutral," Pollin said. CAPTION: Picture 1, President Carter nervously checks scoreboard late in the game; Picture 2, Elvin Hayes has Atlanta's John Drew covered, and Drew is forced to pass off. Bullet Wes Unseld closed in. Photos by Richard Darcey-The Washington Post