What is it with politicians and ill-advised sports jokes? Just a month after John Boehner joked about Ohio State failing to get to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 in front of members of the Buckeyes’ marching band, President Obama spit hot fire about DeflateGate in front of members of the New England Patriots.
“I usually tell a bunch of jokes at these events,” Obama said during a ceremony at the White House on Wednesday to celebrate the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory earlier this year. “But with the Patriots in town I was worried that 11 of 12 of them would fall flat.”
That one, which referred to allegations brought last year that the Patriots were playing with illegally deflated footballs, did. The team, who stood around the president, offered nervous chuckles but mostly groans, while Pats Coach Bill Belichick gave the thumbs down sign.
Obama added: “That whole story got blown a little out of proportion.”
The momentary awkwardness in what otherwise turned out to be a very pleasant event might have ended there, but then wild card tight end Rob Gronkowski got on the mic and offered up a retaliatory zinger Obama’s way — he implied Obama must have been intoxicated to have told his DeflateGate jokes.
“There was no drinking,” Gronkowski said (via the Boston Herald’s Jeff Howe) when asked if he and his teammates had any libations at the White House. Then he added: “Maybe the President was wasted — that deflate joke. We’re still wondering as an organization about that.”
That wasn’t on the script, according to CSN reporter Tom E. Curran.
And even some of Gronk’s teammates were a little taken aback by the retort.
It wasn’t all tension between Gronk and Obama, however. At one point the president got a lot of laughs when he joked about Gronkowski, a known party boy, needing to keep his shirt on while at the White House.
“I told him to keep his shirt on,” Obama said. “He asked me what would happen if he took it off. I said, ‘Secret Service probably wouldn’t like it.’ He said, ‘What could they do to me?’ ”
Even Belichick cracked some smiles, turning his literal thumbs down into at least a proverbial thumbs up when all was said and done. According to CSN’s Phil Perry, Belichick laughed Obama’s DeflateGate quips off. “He’s a pretty engaging guy,” Belichick said.