Offering Some Presidential Advice

By Claude Johnson
Updated: February 28, 2009

CONNECTICUT — By now, everyone knows and understands the important role of basketball in the life of President Barack Obama.

That’s been made quite clear in numerous news reports, television segments, blog posts, and feature articles. Alexander Wolff’s article in Sports Illustrated last month is the definitive Obama basketball study .

Also very clear is President Obama’s intention to construct an indoor basketball court at the White House.

But one big question remains. While he’s waiting for his new court, where exactly will the President play?

CBS News posed that question a few weeks ago, and there’s been speculation President Obama wants to play on local college courts. He’s already visited two schools to shoot hoops — Marie Reed Community Learning Center and Coolidge High School .

These gyms are O.K. for one time visits. But if the President wants a temporarily-permanent home court, I have the answer. Because, while I visited Washington, D.C. for the Inauguration last week, one of my goals was to visit a few gyms in D.C. too, and play some pickup basketball while I was at it.

I’m happy to report that I found the perfect place.

I recommend Results Gym in Capitol Hill, located at 315 G Street, S.E., between 3rd St. and 4th St., next to Garfield Park.

It’s perfect, for several reasons.

First, Results Gym is possibly the finest fitness club in the District, with locations at Dupont Circle, Connecticut Avenue, Mt. Vernon Triangle, and Capitol Hill. The Capitol Hill location — the only one with a basketball court — is a 65,000 square facility that opened in 2001. It includes the usual high end cardio and weight training equipment, squash courts, a 38 foot rock-climbing wall, saunas, babysitting, and a healthy food café. There’s also an enclosed parking lot.

Then, this fitness chain is local — the owner lives down the street from the G Street facility. Results is a neighborhood gym, relying on its exceptional reputation, earned through careful attention to relationships and details, and service to the surrounding community. For example, they let a local elementary school conduct its gym class there during less busy daytime hours.

Next, I checked out Results Capitol Hill myself.

I called ahead and was told when to expect good runs. One never knows what to expect, but, to my delight, I ended up playing basketball for four hours straight, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The basketball court itself is just right. No dead spots, nicely finished floor, no dust, glass backboards, proper lighting, spaciousness. Old school windows let in natural light and give the gym a genuine, vintage feel. An alcove balcony overlooks one end of the court — good for placement of media and security — and contains stationary bikes and rowing machines.

Another thing. The building feels historic because it was formerly the J.R. Giddings School, the first all-black public school in Washington, D.C., originally built in 1889. It’s named after Joshua Reed Giddings , a leading anti-slavery agitator who represented Ohio in the U.S. Congress from 1837 to 1858. More on his significance in a minute.

“Being located on a historical site is a bonus that I think adds a nostalgic quality to the ambiance and overall workout experience,” says Results Gym’s Capitol Hill manager Lavardo Wilkins, who totally hooked me up without ever knowing anything about me.

But back to the basketball, my main reason for being there.

The team I was on included one of the football coaches at nearby Ballou Senior High School , a public school which serves the city’s Anacostia section, and I thought we looked pretty good. But we were no match, at first, for these other dudes that showed up from Gallaudet University . Gallaudet is the world leader in liberal education and career development for deaf, mute, and hard-of-hearing students.

Not only had these guys obviously played together a lot, but they were “signing” — talking to each other using silent hand signals — on every trip down the court. So they were setting back picks, and screens, and double back picks … someone was wide open every time. And they could shoot like crazy. In short, we were toast. At first.

Once we made some adjustments then right away things got more even. We beat them, they beat us, back and forth. Good games! In the end they wanted to mix up the teams, which we took as a modest emotional victory. That’s the beauty of pickup basketball. There’s a language spoken and heard on the court even when some of the players literally can’t speak or hear.

Next, I believe nothing happens by coincidence. So I mention Gallaudet because at the same time we were playing ball at Results Gym, about 300,000 people — including president-elect Barack Obama — were watching the festive “We Are One” concert at the Lincoln Memorial. The statue of Lincoln inside the Memorial was created by sculptor Daniel Chester French. An urban legend persists that Lincoln’s hands are making an “A” and an “L” — his initials — using sign language. It’s said that French, who had a deaf son, did this to honor Lincoln for having given Gallaudet the authority to grant college degrees — a big deal at the time.

Back to Giddings. A lifelong abolitionist, he resigned from Congress in 1842 after his colleagues in the House censured him for motioning to defend the slave mutineers in the Creole Slave Ship Revolt of 1841. Ohioans later elected Giddings back to Congress to fill the empty seat caused by his own resignation. He was rewarded by Lincoln for his anti-slavery efforts with an 1861 appointment as consul general to the British North American Provinces, in Montreal, the same year basketball’s inventor James Naismith was born not far away from there.

Then too, President Obama probably already knows this gym. “I don’t have an exact number but I do know that a few U.S. Senators enjoy the use of our facility and services,” says Lavardo, adding that Results is the official gym of the Democratic National Committee .

Of course, one must consider security arrangements. I’m no expert, but it seems to me that this location would be very easy to lock down. It’s a standalone, self-enclosed building, with easy motorcade access right off of the Southwest Freeway.

Finally, the staff at this gym is energetic, enthusiastic, and friendly. The atmosphere is exciting. The ambiance is cool. The location is historic. The court is sweet. “It would be great to have the President play here,” Lavardo reasons, confidently. “We’d really take care of him and I know he’d love it.”

I give Results Gym Capitol Hill my strong recommendation as the basketball court of choice for President Obama — until he gets his own floor at the White House.