by.the.way.1


WHERE else can you see two former presidents sitting front row and side by side than in a basketball game?

But George W. Bush and Bill Clinton were not watching an ordinary game Monday night in North Texas.

They were there to see the hotly-contested NCAA national championship game between the Kentucky Wildcats and the University of Connecticut Huskies.

The seventh seed Huskies, once banned by the NCAA for the academic sins of earlier players, won the title over eighth seed Wildcats in a battle of long shots.

Clinton and Bush, #42 and #43, respectively, did not say who they rooted for but the crowd of nearly 80,000 at AT&T Stadium was clearly pro-Kentucky.

The humongous venue was also the site where our very own countryman, boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao, fought twice.

Both ex-presidents love sports.

During Clinton’s watch, his home state team, Arkansas Razorbacks, became the upset winner of the NCAA title in 1994 against Duke.

Most nights, Clinton is seen courtside at Knicks games at Madison Square Garden, along with regulars like Spike Lee and Woody Allen.

The Knicks would be lucky to make the last playoff spot now held by the Atlanta Hawks. (Note: The Knicks are now officially eliminated from playoff contention.)

The rejuvenated Brooklyn Nets are playoff-bound.

George W. used to own the Texas Rangers of Major Baseball League where disgraced and suspended Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez once played with distinction.

President Barack Obama, an avid basketball fan and an occasional pick up player, was watching from the White House, or wherever he was that night.

How well he did with his tournament bracket is anybody’s guess.

But most brackets went haywire as top seeds lost to underrated teams like UConn and Kentucky on the road to the Final Four.

We tried bracketing ourselves but we never went past the Elite Eight.

For Obama, however, the night provided a respite from his man-to-man guarding of Russian President Vladimir V. Putin over the latter’s encroachment in eastern Ukraine.

The love of sports is not confined to presidents.

Newspaper readers have told various pollsters that they first turn to the sports page, to exalt at a person’s achievement, or heart-rending defeats.

That’s their distraction from the heavy dose of crime, mayhem, upheavals and politics — the usual fodder of the day’s news.

An ecstatic reader, Jimmy Blas, fired off an e-mail to our sports staff:

“Let me join you in toasting the incredible victory of the Huskies. Las Vegas put the odds at 66 to 1 for UConn to win it all when the tournament started.”

He added, “Truly amazing when they were written off after being trounced by Louisville earlier in the season.”

Now that March Madness is over, the NBA playoffs loom; football rumbles; and baseball is rounding the corner.

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