If nothing else, the late Gerald Ford holds the title of the most athletic U.S. president. In an exclusive analysis, Ford leads the first-ever (and possibly last-ever)...
All-Time U.S. President Athleticism Power Rankings!
Ford was, by far, our most athletic (and athletically accomplished) President: He was a three-year center for
Now, say what you will that Ford might have taken one too many shots to the helmet, but he reigns supreme among Presidential athleticism. (You'll find the final Presidential Power Rankings at the end of the rundown.)
Here's a chronological rundown of the athletic bonafides of the U.S. Presidents of the 20th Century, with an emphasis on actual lifetime athletic accomplishment (and, in the absence of that, significant off-field links to sports as a proxy for participation).
George W. Bush: Well, he OWNED a sports team (Texas Rangers), but the closest he got to participating in sports was as a cheerleader.
Bill Clinton: Huge sports FAN (particularly
George H. W. Bush: Played first base for Yale baseball, which puts him near the top of a thin field. Certainly qualifies him for Top 5.
Ronald Reagan: Sports claim to fame is that he was a Cubs play-by-play broadcaster, but more concerned with acting than athletics. Famously played George "The Gipper" Gipp in the movie, "Knute Rockne, All American."
Jimmy Carter: Star local basketball and football player in high school, but his most notorious sports claim to fame is that he was in office when the
Gerald Ford: See above. The best athlete of any President in our nation's history. And, when we inevitably do the "20th Century World Leader Battle Royale of Athleticism," I'm quite sure Ford would finish in the Final Four, if not win outright.
Richard Nixon: Despite leaving the office in disgrace, he truly embodied the idea of "First Fan," even going so far as to design and call a Super Bowl play for George Allen's Redskins. Played college football for
Lyndon Johnson: Let's just say that he would have won any locker-room, uh, contests. (Jeff Reed? Ha! Small-time, by comparison. Literally.) LBJ enjoyed hunting, fishing and riding.
John Kennedy: Provided one of his most iconic President-and-sports images, playing touch football with his family on the Vineyard. Balky back, though, and general health problems. In the Clinton mold of "Big fan, not much of an actual player."
Dwight D. Eisenhower: Played football for West Point
Harry Truman: Not much there.
Franklin Roosevelt: Do you have to ask?
Herbert Hoover: Was the student manager of the football and baseball teams as a college student at Stanford (he was part of the first Big Game versus
Calvin Coolidge: Doesn't seem to be much there for "Silent Cal."
Warren Harding: At this point in US history, most people who were young adults in Harding's era (1880s) didn't spend much time playing sports. But he did supposedly play a lot of poker.
Woodrow Wilson: Enjoyed bicycling and became an avid golfer while in office (as many future presidents would).
William Taft: Wasn't he kind of a fattie? He was, however, the first President to throw out a baseball at a game.
Theodore Roosevelt: What a bad-ass. He was the runner-up boxing champion as a college student at Harvard. He was a legendary big-game hunter. If he was alive today, he'd probably be a NASCAR champ. That was one tough SOB.
(I'm making the presumption that Presidents before the 20th Century weren't as exposed to sport as young men as the ones who followed them. Feel free to correct me in the comments.)
The first (and final) 20th Century Presidential Athleticism Power Rankings:
1. Gerald Ford
2. Theodore Roosevelt
3. Dwight D. Eisenhower
4. George H.W. Bush
5. Herbert Hoover
6. George W. Bush
7. Richard Nixon
8. Jimmy Carter
9. John Kennedy
10. Bill Clinton
11. Ronald Reagan
12. Woodrow Wilson
13. Lyndon Johnson
14. William Taft
15. Harry Truman
16. Warren Harding
17. Calvin Coolidge
18. Franklin Roosevelt
Other stories worth tracking today:
Bowls Tonight: Florida State vs. UCLA. Unless this is called the "Bobby Bowden Is Finally Retiring, Presented By AARP" Bowl, I really don't care. I picked FSU, like a moron. I'm rooting for UCLA, if only because they pulled off the biggest stunner win of the season, beating USC.
NBA: AI has a season-high 13 assists (plus 28 points) in a Nuggets win over
More NBA: Hot Trade Action! Is Ron-Ron Artest going to the Clippers for permanent trade-rumor fixture Corey Maggette? (My favorite Maggette detail: In the '99 NCAA title game, he was the only Duke player doing any damage -- or capable of doing any damage -- against UConn. Yet Coach K didn't like Maggette's early aggressiveness and benched him, likely costing Duke the title and affirming for me that Coach K can't... well... coach.)
NFL: Is it "win or else?" for Jim Mora Jr.? I'll contend that he's going to be axed regardless. Next time, Mr. Blank, bring in a coach who will build an offense around Michael Vick, not in spite of him.
Meanwhile, Michael Strahan is out for the rest of the year. Like that matters in the big picture for the Giants? And Bill Cowher will announce his plans next week. My bet is on retirement, temporarily. TV cred in '07 and a big raise with another team in '08 is his future.
Best NFL Rumor That Will Never Come True: Charlie Weis to coach the Giants? In a Big Blue wet dream, but that's as close as it's going to get. However, should Weis actually consider it? I say yes: The last two years at ND have proven that this is as good as it's going to get for him: A BCS-qualifying 9 or 10 wins a season, but getting beat by any/every top-tier team they play, with little or no chance at a national title unless they remove any/every top-tier team from their schedule. Meanwhile, doesn't he feel like he has something to prove at the NFL level?
MLB: Will Zito go to the Yankees or Mets? It all hinges on the Yankees trading Randy Johnson.
Gone Bowlin': Central Michigan gets its first-ever D1 bowl win (