Valentines Day – Presidents Day What Sporting Activities did Our Chief Executives Indulge In?

It’s known that our current president Mr. Trump is an avid golfer and owns several country clubs including one in Scotland. President Eisenhower also was quite a golfer and had a driving range and miniature course on his Gettysburg farm, which I have seen. Ike also played football as a young cadet at West Point. He once played  in a game against Carlisle Institute and Jim Thorpe. John Kennedy made touch football a national rage while in office and enjoyed sailing. He also swam every day. Lyndon Johnson was a hunter and, like Kennedy, he also swam. Jimmy Carter was a jogger as was Bill Clinton. Clinton also bowled. George Bush played baseball at Yale and was good enough to attract some pro scout’s attention. Gerald Ford played football at Michigan and was a Big Ten Center his senior year. Ronald Reagan played basketball in high school and his freshman year in college. He was an avid golfer as well.
In the time of George Washington, sports were not a major feature of American life. Washington was a horseback rider, a hunter, swimmer, and fisherman — all skills which grew out of necessity. Both John Adams and his son John Quincy Adams were swimmers, and as most swimmers at the time did, they swam in the buff. There is story that John Quincy was swimming in the Potomac River one summer morning when a young lady newspaper reporter happened upon him. The lady had been trying to interview the president and he had been “ducking“ her….so to speak.  She sat on the President’s pile of clothes and refused to leave until he answered her questions. Adams had to conduct the interview while chest deep in the river. This was long before the president had Secret Service protection. The lady got her story and surrendered the president’s clothes to him.
Abe Lincoln was a was wrestler. He won so many wresting contests in Indiana and Illinois that he developed a reputation and had a hard time getting matches. The 6’ 4” Lincoln was long, lean, and lanky, but he was tightly muscled and strong as a bull. During his presidency, Abe rode horseback to relieve tension and relax. He had bodyguards with him and on one occasion an attempt was made on his life.
Teddy Roosevelt was a strong proponent of the “vigorous” life. A sickly child, he forged himself into an athlete by sheer willpower. He became a cattle rancher, a soldier, and hunter. He was a crack shot and hunted grizzly bear. He boxed and wrestled. He didn’t tell anyone until much later, but one of his boxing matches at the White House led to his being blinded in his right eye. His great-grand nephew Franklin Roosevelt had been a swimmer and sailor as a youth. He had been a member of the Harvard rowing team. After his polio attack he swam to give himself upper body strength.
Richard Nixon played high school football and baseball. At Whittier College he was an end on the football team. He became a golfer while serving as vice president. Herbert Hoover was a tennis player and played on Stanford’s varsity tennis team. He was also the first president to play handball. Warren Harding played baseball. Grover Cleveland was a sailor and yachtsman. James Monroe swam and rode horseback. Barack Obama is a basketball player. He also ran track in high school, and played intramural basketball at Harvard. Both William Howard Taft and his successor Woodrow Wilson were baseball enthusiasts, though neither actually played the game. Taft started the tradition of the president throwing out the first ball of the major league season, when he threw out the first ball of the Washington Senators opening game in the 1910 season. Wilson continued that tradition.
Being president ain’t for sissies. It’s a given that the chief executive has to have the strength and energy to carry out the strenuous duties of the most important and stressful job in the world. Staying active and strong is an absolute must to carry out the duties of president.