Sports and politics

By Staff
Jim Grammer, When it was a game
What do sports and politics have in common? At first glance one might say "very little," but the two have been intertwined in this country for as long as they have existed.
During these times when political rivalries heat up, and election campaigns are in full swing, I'm prone to think back on the times when some of the greatest leaders of this country placed themselves in the forefront to vie for the leadership roles of our government. In researching these bygone political contests, I find that all that who could would offer their past sports experience as one of their qualifications for the job. Great leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Dwight Eisenhower, George H. Bush, Gerald Ford, John Kennedy and yes, even Richard Nixon, and many more portrayed themselves as ex sports figures in their election campaigns, even though Ronald Reagan was best known for playing a sports figure in the movies.
In this upcoming election, John Kerry would like to be remembered more as a former Naval office who fought bravely in the Vietnam war, but you'll often see pictures of his high school sports career slipped in there somewhere. In my opinion, he looks like he could have made a hell of a tight end if he had not been so political-minded, but that's just my opinion. George W. Bush could be remembered as a former owner of a major league baseball team, but I don't blame him for attempting to play that down.
Many senators and legislators are ex sport figures. Jack Kemp and John Glenn are great examples. It was said back in the 1970s that Coach Bryant could have had the Alabama Governor's office any time he wanted it. He didn't want it. I think he wisely steered clear of the political game back in his day.
Anyway, what do politics and sports have in common? Well, I think that sports is still thought of as something good and wholesome in this country, even with all the controversy that seems to be the thing that makes headlines. It's something that one is proud to have been a part of, even those that go on to greater things in their life. It is the part of one's life that they remember and fall back on the lessons they learned there. It is a part of our lives that goes beyond race, religion and nationality. It is where men and women compete as a team or as individuals and walk away proud whether they win or lose. It is something, that whether we admit it or not, is the driving force that makes people strive to be the best they can be. One of Coach Bryant's famous quotes was that sports…"is where young people learn lessons that are not taught in the home, the church or the classroom." I think he was right, that there are things one can learn on the sports field, in the gym, and in the arena that just can't be taught anywhere else, even in the political arena. I think this is why so many famous political figures offer us their experience in sports as one of their qualifications to face the challenges of the office they seek.
I was always taken with the remark that the great General Douglas McAuthur made when he was approaching 80.
In referring to experiences of his life, he mentioned his young days as a boy on an army post in the west and the battles of World War I and World War II. But, he said, "On the football field at West Point is where I became a man." A pretty powerful statement considering the experiences of such a man.
Yes, I think sports is something that everyone, even the greatest leaders of the free world, are proud to have been a part of and the valuable lessons learned on the sports field are something we should value our children more than the winning and losing.
Aren't you and I lucky to live in a country where people can freely take part in both sports and politics?

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