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Obama plays metaphor-filled game

From NBC/NJ's Athena Jones
UNION MILLS, IN -- Yesterday, Obama finished off a day-long tour of Indiana that focused on rural issues with a roundtable chat at a hog farmer's house, followed by a game of P-I-G that might have served as a metaphor for the protracted primary race. It even featured a direct mention of his rival.

The farmer, Andy Evers, was an undecided voter who was leaning toward Obama and who also raises corn and soy. After the Illinois senator spent about 20 minutes talking about health care, not taking money from lobbyists, gas prices, uniting Congress, immigration, and his children, the farmer asked if he would shoot a few hoops with his 14-year-old son Aaron, who he said had been practicing all night.

"We'll play a quick game of P-I-G," Obama said, noting they were on a farm. He joked that Aaron would have home court advantage and that the dimming light -- it was dusk -- was a disadvantage as an older guy.

The assembled press joined the family to watch the game from the edge of the court.

It took Obama -- an avid basketball fan, who was taking part in his fourth hoops-related event in the last six days -- roughly seven minutes to win the game. But it felt like a long seven minutes. 

Early on, he ventured off the pavement into the grass to what could be described as modified three-point range, saying "We're gonna go out into the fields here. Alright, whaddya think? Right here?" He missed. The shot was "way short" as he put it.

An onlooker allowed that maybe the wind was an excuse -- a moderate wind was blowing -- and Obama agreed that the wind could be to blame.

The senator seemed concerned with playing by the rules. A couple times he questioned whether the teen had called the shots he was making.

"Did you call bank shot on that one?," he asked.

"I'm feeling a little pressure, here" Obama said at another point.

"You have to," Aaron said.

The crowd oohed and ahhed as the men tried to best one another. Several of Obama's shots went in like swoosh -- nothing but net -- but he also hit the rim several times or saw the ball appear to be going in but then roll around the rim and pop back out.

"I gotta finish you up right here," Obama said, before missing a shot. 

The game seemed like a baller's mini-version of the on-going election saga. Political observers have begun to echo a question the Clinton campaign has been asking for weeks: With more pledged delegates, more states won and a lead in the popular vote, why can't Obama close the deal and grab the nomination? Some pundits argue a win in both North Carolina and Indiana on Tuesday would help him do so.

As the game dragged on, Obama offered some of the best lines of the night.

"Now we could be here for another couple weeks," he said.

To which an older man standing on the sidelines said: "You better end it."

"I better end it," Obama said.

A few minutes later, the senator told Aaron he should not be nervous "'cause my shot is broke" and then joked they were in Indiana and should be able to make it.

At one point, as it started to drizzle, the senator said "I think we gotta get going. So I think we're gonna have to end it right here. Whaddya think? Let me make this one.". He missed.

For the briefest of moments it seemed that Obama might be flirting with ending the game early, but the political reporters-cum-sports-writers quickly concluded he had no choice but to finish.

"We want to make it close and add to the drama don't we?" he said.

Someone commented: "When the pressure's on, you do pretty well."

"Sometimes, I lose my concentration when there's no pressure," Obama responded.

He wrapped up the game a few moments later, but not before another funny exchange.

"Come on senator, put it to bed," said a man in the crowd.

"You know, he's tough. He keeps on coming back. He's like Hillary," Obama said to laughs before sinking the winning shot.

After the game, Obama posed for a picture with the teen and signed the ball, before heading back to his bus and the campaign trail.