Tripple Overtime: U.S. presidents who you didn’t even know were into sports (It’s Presidents Day)


There’s a lot we know about the past presidents of the United States (of America). Abraham Lincoln could never tell a lie. George Washington had wooden teeth and, from far away, he kind of looked like an old lady in that powdered wig he was always wearing. And even after being elected, twice, George W. Bush is still a huge disappointment to his father.

But while that’s all, of course, common knowledge, you may not have known that quite a few of our founding fathers were quite the sportsmen back in their respective days.

So, since we’re celebrating presidents this Presidents Day — which I recently found out only pertains to U.S. presidents, and somewhat disappointingly, not to presidents of unofficial Taylor Swift fan clubs — and since, obviously, this is a sports column and not a Leonardo DiCaprio column (which was explained to me in Monday morning’s editorial meeting, along with the fact that it was indeed Presidents Day coming up and “You should probably have known that, since you work for a newspaper,” and that “That doesn’t count because it only pertains to U.S. presidents no matter how much you like Taylor Swift,” and a few other things before I stopped paying attention, I figured why not take a look at a few of our past supreme leaders and their athletic contributions to American history before I finally get around to Googling what a run-on sentence is, like Point News Editor M. Patricia Titus has, for some reason, suggested I do.

Now, a lot of this stuff I'm sure you're well aware of, like the fact that George Washington invented archery when he shot that apple off of Winston Churchill’s head, or the fact that Barack Obama often just watches "Sportscenter" instead of like running the country or whatever. But I tried to find a few examples that weren’t all that well known and, anyway, here they are:

• Teddy Roosevelt was a boxer.

Everyone knows that Teddy Roosevelt was far and away our most badass president ever. I mean, the guy was part of a voluntary cavalry called the “Rough Riders” that pretty much just rode around on horseback with guns and stuff and fought in wars and basically made other badass-type dudes, like John Wayne, look more like Wayne Newton.

So it really shouldn’t be that surprising that America’s most badass president knocked the gloves around in America’s most badass sport, as a boxer at Harvard. (I guess he was kind of smart or something, too.)

• Richard Nixon was a linebacker.

According to Nixon, he is not a crook… but he was a linebacker. That’s right — before ol’ “Tricky Dick” was being chased down by reporters on “Watergate” allegations, he was doing some chasing down of his own as a linebacker for Whittier College. That’s a pretty crazy connection I just made there, if in fact Richard Nixon was the one who did all the Watergate stuff (I did not Google it).

• Barack Obama played NCAA basketball.

Our current president may be a little ambiguous when it comes to race or whether or not he’s actually an American citizen, but he’s not hiding anything when it comes to being a Bears fan or infringing upon our civil liberties. (That being the case, if you’re reading this, Barack, R. Chris Clark wrote these jokes, not me.)

But before he was fouling up the constitution, B.O. was fouling up the courts as a basketball player for Occidental College. In 1979, apparently, he even lead the team in scoring — a fun fact that, interestingly enough, no one is willing to come forth and dispute, for some reason.

• Abraham Lincoln was a vampire/zombie hunter.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t very popular with a large portion of the population back in 1863. More specifically about 50 percent of the population, which, for some reason, hailed mostly from the South. But, in 2012, America was all about “Honest Abe.”

Not only was his face on both the dollar and the penny, and in that spot where they filmed that scene in “Wedding Crashers,” but a bunch of movies based on his life came out that year, too — the most well-known being: “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” and “Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies.”

Both of them got terrible reviews, so I didn’t see them, but I’m sure that the respective writers and directors remained true to historical fact when it came to Lincoln’s hunting career. On a side note, there was also another movie about Lincoln that came out in 2012 and focused more on his life rather, than his athletic career as a hunter.

There were a couple more good ones I found, like the fact that, before George W. was letting his dad down in the White House as a grown man, he was doing it on the baseball diamond from a very early age, and that Gerald Ford’s reputation as being a total dumb-dumb very well could have stemmed from taking too many hits to the head with one of those leather helmets as a center for the University of Michigan back in the 1930’s.

But you have to admit that those other ones were pretty crazy — especially that Lincoln hunting vampires one, being that I didn’t even know vampires existed back in the 1800s.

Who knows? Hopefully, our next president will bring some cool new sports history with them when they’re sworn in next January. More hopefully, when they do, their first order of business will be to acknowledge all presidents next Presidents Day — including ones of unofficial, yet still definitely warranted, Taylor Swift fan clubs.