Obama continues sports tradition of U.S. presidents
Is Barack Obama the best sports president of the United States?
Without a doubt, Obama loves sports and showed during his eight years in office that even he is allowed to escape from politics. He played hoops back in the day and even had pickup games while on the campaign trail. He was also an avid baseball fan.
It was fitting for Obama that the Cubs, who ended the longest championship drought in professional sports, would be the last team to visit Obama in office. The Cubs hail from Obama’s city where he spent the early part of his political career even though he’s a White Sox fan. His wife, Michelle, though, favors the Cubs.
“We know you may have some allegiances to another team on another side of town, but we know you’re a very proud Chicagoan, and we know your better half, the first lady, has been a lifetime and very loyal Cubs fan, which we appreciate very much,” Cubs president Theo Epstein said.
But it didn’t matter Monday when the Cubs made the last public appearance at the White House before Obama leaves and Donald Trump takes over today.
Politics aside, Obama’s passion and love for his Chicago teams and sports, in general, displayed to the American people a commoner like them. He was involved with filling his bracket for March Madness every year, detailing each match-up and the logic of why that team would advance. Obama wanted a college football playoff instead of the BCS.
He knew sports.
Obama, though, isn’t the only president who shared this fiery passion as a fan and player.
Gerald Ford played center on two national championship teams at Michigan and was offered contracts to play for the Lions and Packers. But, as the story goes, he preferred politics. Both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush are avid baseball fans with the younger Bush owning the Texas Rangers before taking office.
His father played in the first two College World Series while studying at Yale.
Theodore Roosevelt was a marksman and took boxing lessons, while Dwight Eisenhower was a running back at West Point.
John F. Kennedy swam at Harvard and won an intercollegiate sailing championship with his brother, Joe, and would also play football games on the White House lawn. Kennedy also signed the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which allowed the NFL’s teams to negotiate their network TV deals together.
Jimmy Carter ran cross country and played basketball and baseball, and Abraham Lincoln was a wrestler.
Woodrow Wilson became the first president to attend the World Series in 1915 and Franklin Delano Roosevelt OK’d baseball during World War II.
And don’t forget about Ronald Reagan, the actor who portrayed several athletes on the screen. He starred in “Knute Rockne, All-American” and “The Winning Team.”
But what’s sports without controversy?
Bill Clinton wanted to help fix the Major League Baseball strike in 1995. Carter called for the U.S. boycott of the 1980 Olympics in Moscow to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The younger Bush even threw out the first pitch of Game 3 of the 2001 World Series, two months after the terrorist attacks.
You may question Obama’s political plan but you cannot question his passion for sports. Like presidents before him, he participated on and off the playing field, including pickup games while he was running for office.
Does Obama belong on the Mount Rushmore of sports presidents? Only time will tell.
Thomas Ranson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.