FROM MY SEAT: Presidential Picks

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With Presidents’ Day upon us, I found myself wondering: If some of our First Fans could be brought back for a day (or season), which team’s colors might they wear? For whom would they wave a pennant? Where would our country’s biggest political winners direct their sporting gaze?

 

George Washington -- DALLAS COWBOYS. Our nation’s foremost revolutionary general requires a star on his helmet. And “America’s Team,” however misplaced the moniker may be, would be Washington’s team of choice. (Redskin fans must be cringing at the thought. President Washington, now, would cringe at a team named so crassly.) President Washington commanded every room he entered, just as you might imagine Bob Lilly dominating the locker room as Tom Landry’s franchise rose to greatness. And leadership? No game was ever over, believed Cowboy fans young and old, as long as Roger Staubach was at quarterback.

 

Thomas Jefferson -- PHILADELPHIA 76ERS. But of course. The man who penned the Declaration of Independence would surely delight in the homage paid that special year by one of the oldest and most successful teams in NBA history. And just as Jefferson must defer somewhat to Washington among our founding fathers (he served as the first president’s Secretary of State remember), the Sixers for decades have bowed to the Boston Celtics (more on them later). Were he able to see the otherworldly talents of Philly stars like Wilt Chamberlain, Julius Erving, and Allen Iverson, Jefferson just might find himself wondering how equal all men are created.

 

Abraham Lincoln -- CHICAGO CUBS. Before you scoff, consider the adversity, conflict, and crises suffered here. And then consider our 16th president. Lincoln’s humble beginnings and gradual rise to political stardom (in Illinois, remember), fall right in line with the long-held role of the adored Cubbies. Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Billy Williams, even the overhyped Ryne Sandberg . . . all players more comfortable with their feet on the soil of Wrigley Field than in the bright lights and critical eye of mass media. Lincoln understood patience. He understood forgiveness. And yes, he understood loss. How much would you pay to hear Honest Abe interviewed by Harry Caray?

 

Theodore Roosevelt -- GREEN BAY PACKERS. If ever an NFL player carried a metaphorical “big stick,” it has to be the Pack’s Hall of Fame linebacker, Ray Nitschke. And when looking for a franchise that epitomizes toughness, square-jawed determination, and the kind of grit that can withstand a playing field often called “the frozen tundra,” the Green Bay Packers are head and broad shoulders above the crowd. Whether it was busting monopolies or digging the Panama Canal, there was a directness of purpose in the way Teddy conducted his presidential affairs. And no football historian will ever call Vince Lombardi a “flip-flopper.”

 

Franklin Roosevelt -- NEW YORK YANKEES. One word: power. No other president has ever held it on such a global and complete scale. No other American team has wielded it with such consistent and dramatic might. There will never again be a president of the United States elected to four terms in office, just as there will never again be a baseball team with 26 World Series championships. The former governor of New York (during Babe Ruth’s prime, of course) held our country together during some of the hardest, saddest points in the nation’s history. And the Bronx Bombers? Sure, they’re easy to loathe, for all the greatness, all the Hall of Famers canonized beyond Yankee Stadium’s outfield wall. But they are baseball, and baseball is America.

 

John Kennedy -- BOSTON CELTICS. Maybe the easiest of these picks. Who else for a native son of Beantown, a man who knew nothing else but winning, save for the family tragedies that too often interrupted his meteoric rise to the presidency? (Think the Celtics haven’t known tragedy along with their 16 championships? Look up the names Len Bias and Reggie Lewis.) Kennedy’s first love in sports was football, and he’d appreciate the recent success of New England’s Patriots. But he, perhaps as much as any president before or sense, appreciated the greatness around him. He would see a parallel between himself and Red Auerbach, the coach who handpicked Cousy, Russell, Havlicek, and Bird for his hoops Camelot at Boston Garden. The best and the brightest, indeed.

 

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