Presidential Politics and Sports Fandom

Sorry, political post, but this has been jostling around in my brainmeats for the last few weeks and I’m finally tossing it up on my blog. It started with the Bill Simmons interview with Barack Obama on sports fandom and why it pushed certain buttons in my brain and percolated into this itch. 

I like my leaders to be sports fans.  I don’t know why. I don’t have a rational reason.  Their sports fandom or lack thereof does not impact their ability to make decisions on foreign or domestic policy in any conceivable way.  But it’s one of those things I like.  I like sports, they like sports, even if we hate each other on every other topic we have a common ground to share.  I want my leaders to be honest rabid fans of something.  I want to read their diatribes in interviews.  I want to know they care about stuff I care about.  It’s a thing.

I’m not the only one and it is not only this election year.  Frex, Nixon was a notorious rabid professional football fan.  Here’s an old clip from a Hunter S. Thompson interview about Pat Buchanan, Richard Nixon and football:

Oh, boy. The Raiders were playing against the Packers, which was Nixon’s team, and nobody else on the press bus could talk about it, they were afraid of Nixon on football. He was known to be a hard rocker and very involved. And (press secretary) Patrick Buchanan — I’ve always liked Patrick Buchanan — he was looking for somebody to ride with the boss and talk football, and these other guys, political wizards, nobody volunteered. I was the only one on the press bus who volunteered.

You know, Gerald Ford played Center for University of Michigan. Ronald Reagan played 4 years of college ball, did sports broadcasting, and played Knute Rockne in the biographical movie (thus “The Gipper.”) Bill Clinton never met a golf ball he didn’t like — dude still sponsors the Bob Hope PGA Classic every year. And George W. Bush, say whatever you want to say about the guy, was some sort of Rhodes Scholar of Baseball. Guy could go in depth on the impact of All Star games from the 40s and 50s on how they play ball today. Hate the guy’s politics, I’d totally listen at his feet for his Baseball Wisdom.  He’s like the Baseball Buddha.*

Obama is a basketball super-fiend.  I keep hoping, when he’s done being President of the United States, he gets a rotating spot on ESPN Sportscenter.  When he was running in 2008, I appreciated a completely random rant on the BCS and why it should die in fire.  I thought, okay, on this, man, we are totally on the same page.  McCain’s responses to the BCS were weak and flaccid but Obama?  Dude thought about the Greatest Issue Facing Us Today and had OPINIONS.  Say what you want, but when it comes to sports, well, I don’t agree with Obama on his love for the Tar Heels and I’m not as big into the Bulls but hey, we can’t have everything.  (I picked the Wildcats to win Tourney.)

When I see stuff like this  I just wince.  Romney, after gaffs about “knowing NASCAR team owners” and “knowing the owner of the Miami Dolphins” coughs up this gem:

The Republican presidential candidate said Tuesday he won’t fill

out a bracket — an annual tradition for tens of millions of Americans — because he hasn’t been playing close enough attention.

“I’m not plugged in well enough this year to do that,” Romney told reporters in Missouri.

He said that in Missouri where Missou is a #2 Tourney seed.  I’m running around going dude stop now.  It’s bad enough he sounds like Richy McRich, but he couldn’t even find some intern on his staff to fill out a bracket for him and brandish it around showing University of Missouri winning.  To even pretend.  For Christ’s sake, dude! And I get from him that in his gilded, closeted life, the guy has no passions about anything — and he went to BYU, a legitimate basketball school.   And Stanford.  And Harvard.  From none of this did he get one ounce of love for Tourney.  The mind boggles.  He is a Rombot.

I have no idea if Santorum or Gingrich watch sports or like sports or even conceive of An Exciting Sporting Event.  What would I talk to these guys about?  As much as I deride the whole “I could have a beer with the President,” I couldn’t have a beer with these guy.  I just… don’t… know.  Do they watch Sportscenter?  Do their eyes glance over the Sports Illustrated page or try to call up one of various apps to get the scores while on the road?  Would they do that sort of thing?  I just don’t know!

What I’m saying in a roundabout manner is that this stuff is important.  I like the passion.  I like the interest in something other than the job.  When they talk about “connecting with voters,” it’s this kind of thing.  It’s NCAA Brackets.  It’s having a Super Bowl party.  It’s Dubya choking on a pretzel during a Rangers game.  It’s being Nixon on the bus terrifying people with his insane football Eyebeams.  

* Buddha was neither short nor fat.  Just so you know.

  • And really, he could have stalled with something easy like ‘I don’t want to tell you everyone, but I bet you can guess who #1 is!’ A throwaway line to stall for later.

    Should I be giving him points for honesty? Ehn.

    • My point is not that the Rombot 2000 doesn’t care about hoops. I’m okay with that. My points is that he doesn’t seem to care about anything. Not even tennis or golf. He has no other passions other than running for President and making money. And I have no idea if the other two have any interests other than beating Romney.

      You’d think the highly paid handlers would say, “let’s get this guy a sport!” But every time he tries to get a sport, something like: “Oh I know an owner” wanders out of his mouth. Blech.

      • Right, the second part is where I was leaning. It’s OK to be a right-wing automaton, but if you want the Oval Office, you better be able to fake it a little more convincingly.

        • The last guy who ran on electability and money and good hair with no personality was John Kerry. And at least he was a decorated Vietnam war hero.

          • Heh, I’d actually made the Kerry connection before.

  • tsobo

    IMHO, the “could I have a beer with him?” question is a poorly summarized version of asking job applicants about their outside interests. Single-faceted people tend to be boring, prone to burnout, and less passionate about their work. They’re also the ones you have to talk off the ledge if something blows up at work. Not exactly the qualities you want in your fellow cube worker, much less your president and leader of the free world.

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