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By DYLAN MALONE
On this President’s Day week, I wondered about how the former leaders of our nation have impacted the sports world and whether there were any interesting sports notables tied in with them. What I found was simply patriotic.
FDR installed a pool at the White House during his terms there, but to say that it was sports related is a stretch because his use of the facility was strictly therapy for his polio. The disease would eventually cost him his legs. Interestingly enough, the pool was replaced by the current press briefing room and underneath where the pool used to be now is used as a crawl space for electronics...minus the water of course.
Probably the most athletic Prez we’ve ever had would arguably be Gerald Ford. He was a big-time athlete in high school and played linebacker and center for the University of Michigan who captured national titles in 1938 and ‘39 when they went undefeated in both seasons. Probably the most fascinating fact about Ford was that he was an instructor at the Naval pre-flight school in North Carolina. There, Ford coached all nine sports offered including swimming, boxing and football, which had to be time-consuming.
Here is a short list of what former Presidents were known for in the athletic realm before their time in the Oval Office:
Madison: At 5’3’’, this Prez was not only the shortest, but one of the only to be given the title “pro” at billiards and pool.
Buchanan: one President who was destined never to play a sport that required hand-to-eye coordination. He was nearsighted in one eye and farsighted in the other and to compensate for this he always cocked his head to the left.
Polk: along the same realm as Buchanan, Polk would not have been one for games, at least not while he was married. His wife forbid card games, drinking, or dancing in the White House. Are card players athletes?!?
Lincoln: At 6’4’’, Honest Abe was a dominating basketball player....just kidding. Between freeing slaves and reuniting the union, he had little time for sports. He was a licensed bartender (the only Prez to have a liquor license), however, as he partially owned a bar in Illinois.
Kennedy: an avid swimming who loved going sailing as well as playing football.
LBJ: big advocate for fishing and hunting.
Carter: was a basketball player before the White House but when elected became interested in jogging, swimming, and skiing.
Reagan: felt the most comfortable in the pool. He was even a lifeguard before he became President.
Bush, Sr.: played both soccer and baseball at Yale. The left-handed first baseman played in the first two College World Series. Yale lost both, but during his senior year, Bush got to meet Yankee great Babe Ruth, exactly one year before he died.
Clinton: at Oxford he was a talented Rugby player but in his terms as President he was best known for organizing a run in the National Mall.
Bush, Jr.: like his father, he played baseball and even bought $800,000 worth of shares from the Texas Rangers in 1989. He sold the shares in 1998 when he was elected for a second term as governor of Texas. His return on the shares was $15 million.
Sen. John McCain: was a two-year wrestling letterman in his high school days.
OBama: an avid basketball player, he has set the bar for Presidents who wish to fill out their brackets for March Madness instead of lowering our gas prices! (I digress...)
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