New guide explores the deep connection between sports activities and presidential politics

New guide explores the deep connection between sports activities and presidential politics
New guide explores the deep connection between sports activities and presidential politics

Gathered over drinks at a bar or a sports activities venue, speak among the many rich or hoi polloi will simply as probably flip to politics as sports activities. Their commonalities are what make “Energy Gamers: Sports activities, Politics and the American Presidency” a vital learn for anybody fascinated with both, notably since so many are preoccupied with each.

Chris Cillizza, a former CNN political reporter, chronicles the sports activities leanings of presidents from Eisenhower via Biden within the guide and makes use of that data to supply perception on the nation’s chief executives. It’s unclear if success in sports activities ensures success on the polls. Nonetheless, Cillizza argues persuasively that, for instance, Michael Jordan has extra in frequent with Donald Trump than a ardour for golf.

“What attracts folks to athletics is identical factor that attracts folks to politics,” he mentioned. “They’re all obsessive opponents who usually are not solely fascinated with successful, they need to achieve this within the public sphere, the place individuals are watching and cheering. That’s why you see so many presidents concerned in sports activities … it scratches that very same itch.

“In the identical approach that elite athletes like Jordan or Kobe may be nearly uncomfortably aggressive, so can elite politicians be uncomfortably aggressive too. There’s an obsession with successful in each instances. It takes an enormous act of ego to even imagine you’re the one who can finest symbolize 330 million Individuals — that’s the form of individual drawn to prime ranges of politics and sports activities.”

Chris Cillizza examines the sports activities leanings of presidents previous and current.

Regardless of Chevy Chase’s “SNL” depictions of Gerald Ford as clumsy, Cillizza claims that Ford was simply essentially the most athletic president since Eisenhower — and maybe one of the best ever. Ford was a soccer All-American and captain at Michigan, and spurned professional gives from the Bears and Lions to attend legislation faculty. “No different president bought gives to play skilled something,” Cillizza mentioned. He additionally places Bush I, who captained Yale’s baseball workforce within the Fifties, within the elite athlete class amongst presidents.

As for the opposite excessive? “For least athletic presidents, LBJ is in a category of his personal. Nixon is shut … Throughout his faculty soccer profession (at Whittier School) he was type of a tackling dummy, however Nixon realized classes there about getting again up many times, that are nearly too spot-on for his political profession.”

Golf is the game most related to presidents, from Eisenhower’s White Home placing inexperienced and “cabin” at Augusta Nationwide, to Trump’s preoccupation with the game. Cillizza says no president since Ike performed as a lot golf in workplace — generally 36 holes in a day. So far as which prez was the higher golfer? Eisenhower wins that contest, in response to Cillizza, however there’s a darkish horse for finest total linksman. With the assistance of movie and video footage reviewed by the swing editor at Golf Journal, he suggests it’s JFK. “That’s doesn’t make him one of the best golfer essentially, however in all probability finest and most pure golfer amongst presidents — even with a foul again.”

With Democrats assailing Eisenhower and the GOP over how a lot golf he performed as president, Kennedy stored his {golfing} quiet, seeking to keep away from elitist associations.

As for fandom, LBJ and Reagan cared the least about sports activities. Cillizza says LBJ, almost 60 years in the past, was the final president to get elected who was, “if not anti-sports, massively dismissive. As we speak, Twitter would have a discipline day with a man from Texas who didn’t know something about soccer and didn’t care.”

Cillizza places Nixon on the prime of the record of presidents who would have referred to as sports-talk radio if it had been round then. “Each president used sports activities, to some extent, for political acquire, however Nixon’s fandom was real,” he mentioned.

As part-owner of the Texas Rangers, Bush II was the one president (exterior of Trump operating the USFL into the bottom as a workforce proprietor) with front-office expertise, with out which he wouldn’t have gained nationwide renown. 

“With out him being the general public face of the Rangers, I don’t suppose he wins the governor’s race from which he went on to be president,” Cillizza mentioned.

Politics may be extra irritating than sports activities, as a result of within the former, there are definitive winners and losers each two, 4 or six years. Sports activities have extra frequent outcomes and accordingly far fewer speaking heads. Cillizza postulates that sports activities are actually pervasive sufficient to have turn out to be a lingua franca for politicians.

“You definitely can’t be president at the present time with out having a working data of sports activities,” he mentioned. “Sports activities have turn out to be like faith. It’s very laborious to run for president with out some form of non secular beliefs to talk of, whether or not you imply it or not. It’s the identical with sports activities; if you happen to’re operating for president, you’ve bought to have the ability to speak that speak. In the event you feign familiarity (who can overlook John Kerry calling the Packers residence “Lambert Discipline” within the 2004 presidential election) folks will sniff it out.”

Terry Lefton may be reached at [email protected]