While the bloodthirsty competition for president plays out in the political arena this week, we here at the sports page simply can’t stop thinking about all things sports related. While we wish good luck to supporters on all sides, it is a great time to look at presidents of past and see how they impacted the world of sports.
With all due respect to Hooverball and Nixon’s bowling alley, this is the best of the presidential best.
Here is Crave Online Sport's ranking of “Best Sports Presidents” based on: participation before and during office, contribution to the sports world, and finally, athletic ability.
# 10 – Barrack Obama
Surprisingly, Obama was the first president who seems generally to love basketball and play regularly. The former prep star built the White House’s first basketball court. He is also a huge fan, especially for his hometown Chicago teams. He doesn’t pull the normal politician cliché of not picking a team, afraid to offend anyone. His yearly visit to ESPN for March Madness pick-em is now highly anticipated.
# 9 – Woodrow Wilson
Wilson threw out the first Presidential “First Pitch,” starting a pretty unique American tradition. He played more rounds of golf as a president than anyone else. He played a little baseball in college, but (surprisingly) was a football coach at Wesleyan. His idea of fun was taking biking holidays.
# 8 – Dwight Eisenhower
As fullback, Ike proved his mettle playing for some of Army’s great football teams. Before enlisting, he supposedly played some minor league baseball. When he couldn’t play football anymore, he tried boxing.
# 7 – George W. Bush
The man could bench press 210 lbs. while he was in office at age 55 and ran marathons until his mid-forties. He couldn’t play well but was a cheerleader instead in college. Oh, and he actually owned a piece of the Texas Rangers (yes, he’s to blame for trading Sammy Sosa away).
# 6 – John F. Kennedy
JFK was on the Harvard football and swim team. His famous rescue of PT boat compatriots during World War II involved his remarkable swimming skills. Using his teeth he pulled a raft through open hostile ocean waters while swimming after his PT boat was sunk. Remember that next time you’re in a Mud Run.
# 5 – Ronald Reagan
Reagan was too old to play much once in office, but he did start the Presidential Fitness Challenge, launching a million pull-ups. An even bigger contribution was giving the world “Win one for the Gipper” on the big screen. As a teen, he was a prep champ in three sports and then was a play-by-play radio announcer for the University of Iowa football team and the Chicago Cubs.
Fun Fact: Regan has one of the most memorable baseball announcing antidotes. http://radio.about.com/od/djsandhostsqt/a/aa060704a.htm
# 4 – George H. Bush
Dubya’s dad never owned a team but he could play (unlike junior). He was captain of the Yale baseball team and lead them to the College World Series … not once, but twice. Who knows what would have happened if he didn’t go into the oil business.
# 3 – George Washington
Washington could do any athletic feat that was challenged of him. He threw a rock across the Rappahannock River in Virginia that most men today can’t match. He is said to be the best horseman in the country and towered over most men. One day, he came across some of his soldiers who were throwing a version of a modern javelin. Without taking off his coat, Georgey threw the thing twice as far as the younger men. He sauntered off with a polite, “When you beat my pitch, young gentlemen, I’ll try again."
Another time, he is said to have been challenged by a champion of a wrestling competition that he was witnessing. Again, he did not remove his coat but beat the man in seconds with his bear-like grip.
Imagine him playing Quarterback in the NFL.
# 2 – Gerald Ford
If Ford had gone to college twenty years later, he may have never been President. After a stellar college football career, including two National Championships, Ford was wooed to play professionally by the Packers and Lions to play center. The guarantees and pay weren’t that great back then, so he went to Yale Law School instead where he coached football and boxing.
# 1 –Theodore Roosevelt
Teddy was a badass and truly the most interesting man in the world.
In order to beat asthma and a ‘weakling’ body frame, Roosevelt built himself up brick by brick. As a boy, he would stand on one-leg for hours on end while reading. By the time he was at Harvard, he was the boxing champ runner-up.
His cowboy days alone put him in legendary status, but he continued with athletic strengths as he grew older. He would box or wrestle anyone that challenged him. He didn’t always win, but he would always accept the challenge (he was partially blind in one eye from a ‘rassle'). One time when Japanese diplomats visited, he challenged and beat them in jiu-jitsu.
He held meetings will playing tennis. And just for fun, he would run through forests in his own version of a Tough Mudder.
Most importantly, Teddy Roosevelt saved football! In 1905, so many players were getting killed, the university presidents wanted to ban the game. It was violent, and according to the New York Times, on par with lynchings as far as “evilness.” Teddy was a big fan and stepped and brought all the key players to the White House. He convinced the players they needed to adapt to a safer style of play or not play at all. Without his intervention, the game would have gone the way of bareknuckle brawling.
Brian Reddoch is a CraveOnline reporter and rabid fan of all teams Seattle. You can follow him on Twitter @ReddReddoch and at www.facebookcom/craveonlinesports.com.
Photo Credit: Getty