President ribs Boston crowd

Updated: June 27, 2012, 12:07 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

WASHINGTON -- Were they booing the president? Or were they "Youuuk-ing" him?

In a sensitive campaign season where every headline matters, it depends on who is doing the construuu-ing.

Let's start with President Barack Obama, who was working for votes on Monday in Boston, the home territory of Republican rival Mitt Romney.

As he was just getting warmed up in a campaign speech, Obama uncorked something of a wild pitch.

Romney
Romney
Obama
Obama

He jokingly thanked the city for trading Kevin Youkilis -- a gritty, beloved, core player for the Boston Red Sox for years -- to Obama's hometown Chicago White Sox this week.

"Boston, I just want to say thank you for Youkilis," Obama told the audience at Symphony Hall.

The crowd began booing, in a loud but seemingly good-natured, defend-our-team kind of way.

"I'm just saying, he had to change the color of his socks," Obama said with a chuckle.

A smiling Obama added: "I didn't think I'd get any boos out of here. I guess I should not have brought up baseball. My mistake."

When Obama ended the riff by conceding, "You've got to know your crowd," he was rewarded with some laughter.

Someone helped him recover by shouting from the crowd, "We still love you!"

Not so fast, according to Romney's camp.

In a daily email blast to reporters on Tuesday, Romney press secretary Andrea Saul led off by accusing Obama of having taunted Red Sox fans. She lumped it in with some of the most gut-wrenching setbacks in Red Sox history.

"Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007," she wrote. "Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling."

(Actually, the team has a winning record and has won seven of its past 10 games.)

Maybe the president should have congratulated the team for winning the World Series in 2004 and 2007. Instead, he chose to mock them for trading away one of its favorite players at a time when the team is struggling.

-- Romney press secretary Andrea Saul

Lest a negative story go unchallenged, enter Jay Carney, the White House press secretary and a big Red Sox fan.

Unprompted, Carney told reporters traveling with the president that there had been some "really silly reporting" about the episode.

He commended his boss for refusing to cater to Red Sox Nation and gently chided those who couldn't tell a dis of the president from the calling of a player's nickname.

"Anyone who knows Boston and anyone who was in that room last night knows that the preponderance of people shouting in response to what the president said about Youkilis were saying 'Yoooouk' and not 'Booo' for God's sake," Carney said.

As the debate moved to Twitter, the White House was not letting go.

Let's have some clarity, Carney tweeted: "Some booed. Others, like me, cried 'Yoooouk!' in sad memoriam."

White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer couldn't resist taking a shot at the media about the whole incident. He said the general reaction from the media was to depict the moment as a gaffe for Obama, when in fact, he said, the president stood by his team -- the White Sox -- and refused to pander to the home crowd.

"True sports fans understand loyalty," Pfeiffer tweeted.

Oh, and Youkilis?

The new White Sox third baseman told reporters that he and his family got a kick out of Obama's comments.

"It's probably a better way to get mentioned by the president than other ways," he said. "So that's a good thing."

Obama again opined on a local professional sports team Tuesday night, publicly praising the NBA champion Miami Heat at a campaign fundraiser in the city.

The only problem this time was that Obama mispronounced the name of the team -- referring to it as the "Miami Heats."

At the top of his remarks at the Jackie Gleason Theater in Miami Beach, Obama said his public recognition of dignitaries and special guests would be "incomplete if I did not congratulate the city of Miami for having the world champion Miami Heat here in town."

"You guys earned it," Obama said as the crowd applauded.

"And since one of my favorite people is Alonzo Mourning is here and Tracy Mourning," he added. "I just want to give them a special shout out. Alonzo looks like he can still play. Hasn't aged a bit ... looks the same, except he doesn't have a flat top."

Mourning, 42, spent 15 years in the NBA playing longest for the Miami Heat.

Information from The Associated Press and ABC Sports was used in this report.

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