Presidential Race

Do you feel like I do?  Do you wish the race for president would never end?  Ooohh, the very idea of a fully-blustered presidential campaign sets my pulse to racing.  All those scabrous lies, heinous rumors, and statistical confabulations lobbed up against charges, counter charges and past indiscretions.  I tell you, I get all goose pimply at the thought of it all.

But do you ever wish that there was a better way to choose our leaders than by wading through the offal of political ads, unctuous speeches and gotcha debates?  I never feel like I’m getting the unfiltered candidate – except for the satanic Newt, the tail-regenerator who seems Dr. Seuss-born, and soon to be played by Jim Carey.

Actually, we see best what the process has become with Good Neighbor Mitt, a candidate whose every utterance has campaign staff inspection slips falling out of each syllable.   Seems the only candidate this cycle who was unafraid to put it to us straight was Grandpa Ron (Paul) who understood that such discourse carries the unfortunate penalty of never actually achieving the office being sought.

What we need instead of this year’s-worth of mucking about is a fail-safe way to make the right choice.  And here is the premise:  Americans love athletic types in the White House.  I say, find the best athlete, and we’ll find the best president.  If his body is coordinated, his policies just might be, too.

Just look at history.  But it has to be recent history, because pre-World War II the nation was still mostly rural.  So the whole idea of leisure activity from the President would have looked unseemly outside an occasional duck or quail shoot.  Even so, the press wasn’t as intrusive back then.  So who really knew what happened way back?  Lincoln could have been a bowler, for all we know, and Mary Todd his pin setter.  Maybe she took a few Brunswicks to the head; could have explained a lot.

JFK in action

In modern times, JFK remains the all-time jock at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Notwithstanding what we now know of his myriad physical maladies, and his steroid shots, those touch football games at the family compound in Hyannisport, PT-109 swimming heroics in Pacific, and of course those bouts with Marilyn Monroe made him Ich bin ein stud muffin.

On the other hand, even though Gerry Ford played Big Ten football at Michigan, he played center, so we never offered him a four year ride to White House U.  And a lot of that was due his inclination to bounce his exposed think tank off helicopter doorways on the South Lawn.  Well, no wonder he pardoned Nixon.  Poor guy was in a constant state of pardoning himself, and Dick just slipped in after a particularly nasty bump.

“Pardon me,” said Gerry after a cranial wack on Marine One’s door jamb.

“How about me?” queried Dick.

“Pardon,” wondered Gerry, still a bit woozy.

“Thanks, I’ll take it,” said Dick.

Such are the vagaries of history.  Besides, there were hardly enough Republicans left to vote in California after Gerry got through spraying Titleist golf balls along the fairways in Palm Springs.

Nixon, a real yo-yo

At least Gerry Ford tried. You couldn’t find a more alien athlete than Dick Nixon.  He once took to the Grand Ole Opry stage in Nashville where he was handed a yo-yo.  He looked at it like it was moon rock. You’d choose FDR in a presidential pick-up basketball game before taking the Tricky one.

At other times good timing, by itself, has covered the base for us.  All our man Dwight Eisenhower ever did was play mediocre, no-injury golf.  But he was smart enough to swing his niblick while Arnold Palmer was hitching his trousers and recruiting an army of followers in the late 1950s.  It all dovetailed nicely into the national march to the suburbs and all that, “Father Knows Best” post-war pleasantry.  Ike was a man in tune with his times.  Ike got two terms before warning us about the military-industrial complex.

For his part, LBJ never was much of a sporting man as such.  Accordingly, we should have seen the Vietnam fiasco coming.  Oh, sure, he’d occasionally womp his wanker on the big desk in the oval office to make a point, or hold up the family pooch by the ears in a nod to the Westminster Kennel Club.  But he was more of a prankster than a sport.

Carter Collapse (photo by Phil Stewart)

Not to be outclassed ineptitude-wise, there is a fair body of evidence that points to President Carter’s el foldo at the polls in 1980 as a reflection of his collapse into oxygen debt during a 10K road race near Camp David – captured uncomfortably on film by Road Race Management’s Phil Stewart.  Here was the leader of the free world unable to judge his oxygen uptake during recreation.  Jeez, the ayatollah was eighty years old, and even he knew how to breathe and keep upright simultaneously.  Jimmy, go back to the peanut farm, and take the rest of your sanctimonious pod-people with you.

The Gipper

In contrast we had Ronnie Reagan.  Fixed-wing brain power was surely never one of Dutch’s armaments, but that’s just the point.  Stop giving me substance when I’m searching for style.  We loved Dutch in spite of knowing he pulled off two terms via 3 X 5 crib cards.  It was that natural, easy athleticism he displayed chewin’ gum as George Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne –  All American.  And he could still whip tight spirals out on the campaign trail in the ’80’s, too.  And he chopped wood, rode horsies, pumped iron, and took bullets.  We’re talking Saturday morning cartoon hero here – President Man.  He was so good he got Vice President Gumby – Bush 41 – elected to the big office in ’88 as an extension of himself, like Robin following the Batman.

But, at the same time, George H.W. Bush had a winning sports resume to go along with that long political CV. Baseball at Yale, fishin’ off that cigarette boat along the Maine coast, jogging, golf, and pitching horseshoes.  He never got the credit he deserved due to his “Read my lips” tax pep talk.  Besides, in `92 he was up against the best indoor sportsman since JFK, the Arkansas Flash himself, Bill Clinton.  Bubba didn’t inhale, so he wasn’t into heavy breathing, except for those romps with Monica in the oval office.

Ride On, G.W.

Which brings us to G.W. Bush, poor boy.  He was just trying to keep up with Daddy – and maybe get to be baseball commissioner – before Karl Rove and Condi Rice got a hold of him.  After being a cheerleader in college, George became addicted to exercise in office, if not actual governing.  But then he had Coach Dick Cheney for that.

Obama Full Court

Today’s White House occupant is the best pure basketball player of anyone who’s ever taken the oath of office.  Of course, men like Washington, Jefferson and the Adams boys didn’t have a lot of time for recreation, what with the birth of the nation and all. But Barack O. has real ball skills, even if he is a little light on the stamina with his locker room smokes.


Maybe, though, we have a rare opportunity to move forward in presidential politics.  I say, screw the debates.  Might as well set those choreographed pieces to music and schedule them as a “Great Performances” on PBS.  Talk about a series of dances.

No, let’s do a real run for the White House with simple, clean, unmistakable evidence of leadership.  Anyone who races knows there is no place to hide once the gun goes off.  And your personality is revealed unmistakably in racing.  Besides, we haven’t had a match race worth spit since Marty Liquori and Jim Ryun suited up in the Dream Mile back in 1970 in Philadelphia.

Here’s the format.  8 a.m., Tuesday, November 6th, line Messers Obama and Romney at the foot of the Washington Monument.  National television coverage from all networks and cable attend.  I don’t know, 20 laps around the Washington Mall?  Then, first guy to the oval office, and…”Congratulations, Mr. President.”

The Kentucky Derby may be the Run for the Roses, but we can bill this one “The Run for the Rose Garden”.

“Candidates to your mark…”



  1. Toni,

    This was a thoroughly entertaining and informative piece. You briefly mention Ron Paul in your discussion comparing presidential ability with athleticism.

    I offer the following for your consideration:


    “Excelling in track and field, he graduated from Dormont High School in 1953 with honors. He had a best mark in the 100-yard dash of 9.7 seconds[15](the record was then 9.4 seconds);[16] as a junior, he was the 220-yard dash state champion[17] and placed second in the 440-yard run.[14] He also was on the wrestling team, played football and baseball, and was student council president.[14][2] After surgery on a knee injury, he took up swimming as a form of therapy.
    A major university offered Paul a full track scholarship, chancing he could regain his prior speed; he declined it, unwilling to involve the university in the risk himself.[18] Rather, he paid for his first year at Gettysburg College with saved newspaper-delivery, lemonade-sale, and lawn-mowing money; he later received a small academic scholarship.[14] He delivered mail and laundry in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania; managed the college coffee shop (the Bullet Hole) for one year; and joined the swim team. Inducted into the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity,[19] he served as pledge class president, house manager, and kitchen steward, planning and supervising cooks for all meals.[14][20] By his senior year, he was running track again; he set the then-third-best marks in college history in the 100-yard dash (9.9 seconds) and 220-yard dash (21.8 seconds).[21] He received his bachelor’s in 1957, majoring in biology.[17]


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