Friday, September 30, 2011

The American Spectator Sports

The Presidency of the United States has thus far been the domain exclusively of the male of the species, and nothing says “testosterone” quite like a passion for sports.  The current and many former Presidents have come to be defined in our memories by their love of a chosen sport.  Gerald Ford was an avid golfer and a former college football player.  JFK played the field.  George W. Bush was an avid mountain biker, owned a major league baseball franchise and started a tradition of T-ball games on the White House lawn.  Of course, we are all familiar with Obama’s private basketball games and occasional (my friends on the right would argue with my use of the word ‘occasional’ here) golf outings with members of the opposite party.  Playing and following sports reinforces in the mind of the public the Commander-in-Chief’s vigor and more importantly, his manhood.  The public sees reflected character traits, strengths and flaws, in the President’s choice of sport, and those character traits can either help or hurt his all-important job approval ratings.  Nobody wants a wimp (see Bush 41).

If the polls are correct, there is a 50-50 chance that one of the current contenders for the GOP nomination will win the Presidency, and then we will look for meaning in the sport they bring to the new White House.  Will a new President endorse a mild, non-contact sport, or perhaps a friendly game of chance?  Will a new President participate in the sport, or watch casually from the sidelines?  And what will that tell us about the real person behind that red power tie (or pastel pants suit)?

I wonder…

If Mitt Romney wins, I think we’re looking at 4 years of polo matches on the South Lawn.  If he wants to project an image of champion of private sector, he’ll need to ride like one and swing that mallet with New England gusto.  Besides, everyone Mitt hangs out with today plays polo, so it’s an easy transition.

Of course, after a long hot Washington summer, the stench of elitism emanating from those polo ponies may force Romney to revisit his childhood passion, dodgeball.  "If you can dodge a question, you can dodge a ball," his quixotic mentor, Patches O'Houlihan, taught a young Romney when Mitt was a dodgeball prodigy.  The lessons on winning dodgeball he learned from Patches ("Dodge.  Duck.  Dip. Dive.  Dodge.") have shaped his political philosophy, and have helped him stay in front of the Average Joe's.

If Rick Perry wins, I see lots of poker games.  If ESPN can broadcast several hours each day of people playing cards, it must be a sport.  Under a velvet “Dogs Playing Poker” painting, neatly hung in the East Room, Rick and his Texas cohorts will smoke cigars, cuss, spit, and banter about foreign policy using off-color jokes.  There’s a new sheriff in town, but the Secret Service would still not allow concealed weapons to be brought into the game, especially since Karl Rove might try to crash the game.

If Ron Paul wins, his policy on sports will be simple: “Play whatever the hell sport you want.  It’s a free country!”

If Rick Santorum wins, the sport of choice will be Greco-Roman wrestling in the Rose Garden.  There’s something Biblical for Santorum about enjoying a sweaty bout whose origins date back to the days when man and dinosaurs lived together in harmony.  Vice-President Bachmann’s spouse is destined to be club champion, not that there is anything wrong with that.

If Michelle Bachmann wins, we’ll be exposed to weekly “It’s Academic” matches designed to help the average American become exceptional by unlearning U.S. history, recognizing the blasphemy of scientific inquiry, and the embracing the futility of foreign language study.  This, we would be told, was a sport the Founding Fathers would endorse.  The Marine Band would play God Bless America right before the Lightning Round, and immediately after “Toss Up”.    

If Newt Gingrich wins, we’ll be looking at Joey Chestnut challenging the world from the North Portico in the annual Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest, finally elevating competitive eating to its rightful place among the 4 major sports.  Eating too much is an American as apple pie...or several apple pies, and no one running for President knows that more than Newt (assuming Chris Christie remains on the sidelines).

If Sarah Palin runs and wins, the choice is clear – biathlon.  Since we are a few years removed from the last Winter Olympics, the sport of biathlon combines cross country skiing with target shooting, the perfect marriage of her Alaskan roots and her love for weapons of death.  There should be plenty of snow and extreme weather in DC by the time her term ends, since her election would represent the voice of the people overruling the science of climate change.  Burn those fossil fuels, grab your skis and rifle, and let it snow in September!

If Gary Johnson wins the election, his administration will play touch football on grounds of the Capitol, an American game that’s good clean fun.  Unfortunately, he would never get picked for any of the teams, and photos of him pouting on the sidelines would go viral on Twitter, effectively killing his policy agenda.

If Herman Cain wins, arm wrestling would rule the day.  The rules of arm wrestling are few, filling far less than 3 pages, so this sport would fit perfectly into his signature policy promise that no federal laws would take up more than 3 written pages.  And nothing goes better with arm wrestling than – you guessed it – a hot delicious Godfather pizza, offered no doubt at a special Cain administration price of $9.99, in honor of his 9-9-9 plan. 

If Jon Huntsman wins, it’s NASCAR through the streets of DC.  Huntsman will have to embrace NASCAR because it is the only way he’ll be able to keep the interest of those gearhead voters while he spends hours in arcane discussions of “trade policy” and “foreign currency markets”.  Besides, drinking milk after winning a race suits his Ward Cleaver image to a tee.

We’ll find out soon enough if any of these characters has a sporting chance against hoop star Obama next November.  I think he might have some long 3-pointers up his sleeve.  Game on.

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