10 January 2008

Presidential Candidates and Sports

It's still snowing in Colorado and I'm still rather bruised up from crashing in the snow, so I'm bored and want to try something new today...

2004 represented the pinnacle of cycling in American politics. Both the Democrat candidate, Sen. John Kerry (D, Mass-a-freaking-chusetts), and Republican incumbent, Pres. George W. Bush (R, Yale), were active cyclists. Both got to hang out with Lance Armstrong. Kerry prominently sported his Livestrong bracelet back in that nostalgic era of Lance-glamour. Bush used to get beat up in wicked mountain biking crashes.

2008, as we all know, is a time of change - purpotedly a rejection of the politics of the recent past. Perhaps that means that we no longer want a President who is a cyclist. But does that mean we don't want a President who is an athlete? Let's examine:

Barack Obama plays basketball. What a surprise. Mr. Chicago, Mr. uh, well, I'm not going to make any racial generalizations here because that's not the kind of person I am. Apparently, though, Sen. Obama has a wicked good game of pickup basketball. Does this count as a competitive sport? Well, I tried to make the basketball team in middle school (unsuccessfully), so I'll give him some hardcore street-cred for it. I know all too well, also, that the men's basketball coach at Brown is Obama's brother-in-law. And apparently he played basketball on his middle school team, and was on Harvard Law's pickup basketball team that played prison inmates once (the only sort of people that Harvard can find who'll take their athletic teams seriously?) Obama does smoke cigarettes, though, so I'm guessing that the probability that he'll become a cyclist is quite minimal.

I wouldn't mess with John McCain in any sport - well back in his prime. In this very interesting piece of John McCain's youthful years, it seems clear that he was a very accomplished wrestler in high school (although his early attempts at picking up girls were legally misconstrued for verbal harrassment). Apparently he was even recruited to wrestle at Princeton, but instead opted for Annapolis - I'm unclear if he continued to participate there. And, I think one must give Sen. McCain credit for the 5.5 years spent being tortured nearly to death in a North Korean prison. I don't think it counts as a competitive sport, but it should count for something. I don't think cycling is a physical reality for him, though.

According to this New York Times article, Hillary Clinton's primary athletic love is "speed-walking," but also at some unspecified point she says, "I played softball, I played pickup basketball, I played tennis." She also recalls that, "she once won a trophy in an Arkansas mixed-doubles tournament." All of this seems all too vague to me. Granted, there have historically been less opportunities for females to participate in competitive sports. Maybe Sen. Clinton was wicked good at tennis and just doesn't want to brag about it - but I doubt it. It would add to her 'resume of experience.' She does seem pretty healthy and fit, though, so she's doing something right. Maybe I should give it a go in the speed-walking scene!

Ron Paul. What can we say about this dude? Well, according to a compilation of credible source's on Rep. Paul's wikipedia page, he was an extraordinarily talented athlete in high school. He was on the wrestling team, baseball team, football team, and track team in high school. Furthermore, he was Pennsylvania state champion as a junior in the 220 yard dash, second in the 440 yard dash that year, and ran an astounding 9.7 seconds in the 100 yard dash! After his junior year, though, he horribly injured his knee, requiring surgery and ending his running career for a while. So, he took up swimming, and even competed on the Gettysburg College varsity swim team. Then, in what must have been an astounding comeback to running, he joined the Gettysburg varsity track team his senior year and set school records in the 100 yard and 220 yard dash. He might seem like a lunatic, but Ron Paul was an athlete. He could be a successful master's cyclist, I think.

I don't think former NYC mayor Rudy Giuliani was ever much of an athlete, and the absence of any evidence to the contrary in my hurried rush of research based solely on one internet search engine confirms my theory. But, he is known to be an avid Yankees fan. I suppose, really, any good Brooklyn boy should be an avid baseball and Yankees fan. That was, until he became, in the words of the oh-so-credible New York Post, Judas Giuliani! That's right - Giuliani actually rooted for the freaking Red Sox! I can't vote for the guy, now.

Mitt Romney claims that he has participated in every sport known to man, from judo to Ironman triathlon. Actually I'm making that up. I couldn't find any good sports background on him. He did organize the Salt Lake City Olympics, though, so maybe that counts for something. He's WASPy enough and full of enough hot air, though, to be a once-a-year cat. 5 master's racer (on a Pinarello with Zipps, presumably) and claim that he's an Armstrong-like hardcore bike racer. And his real name is Willard.

John Edwards still looks like he could win a prom-king election (a Presidential one, though, I doubt). It appears from his website that he was a sort of high school football star in North Carolina. From his pugilistic rhetoric, too, I can buy into his continual campaign claims that he is an active football fan. Again, former Sen. Edwards does have a pretty nice physique as well - and thus is probably continuing to do something good. Could he become a cyclist? I say yes, but he'd probably be the douchebag throwing elbows in the first few laps of a criterium and then gets his ass kicked after the race for pissing off somebody. Or maybe get his ass beat for talking a lot of empty trash before the race even starts.

The closest cycling connection that I could find from the candidates was with Fred Thompson, of all people. Not surprisingly, he was apparently a football and basketball player in high school in Tennessee. But, upon graduation from high school, he worked for a year in the Murray Ohio Bicycle assembly plant! That plant was in the small town of Lawrenceburg, TN, and apparently the experience was enough to drive former Sen. Thompson to pursue an education at the University of Memphis. Chances are, though from looking at the kinds of bikes that Murray Ohio produced, former Sen. Thompson probably does not have a fond conception of what cycling is or means. The chances he could become a cyclist? I say nil. But he does have a hot wife.

Mike Huckabee does deserve a badass award in the athletics department. Several years ago, as governor of Arkansas, he went from weighing 300lbs and being diagnosed with diabetes to losing 110lbs in weight and running marathons! According to this article about his amazing and inspiring transformation, he went from riding the exercise bike to walking to, an a "Forrest Gump" impulse, trying out running. His first marathon, in 2005, was done in 4hrs 38min, which is impressive. Says Huckabee, "I'm not a great athlete. I'm a guy who's never done anything athletic in his life ever, and there's no way I should have been able to do that. But if you train and you just commit to the discipline and focus of the training, I'm convinced even a guy like me can do it." That's inspiration to me.

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