The United States recently witnessed Jon Rahm put on the green jacket at the Masters, one of the biggest honors a golfer can achieve during their career. Golf holds a special place in the hearts of millions of Americans, including many US presidents throughout the years.
From William Howard Taft’s and Woodrow Wilson’s famous visits to Augusta’s first course of Bel Air to the infamous Donald Trump golf outings we saw throughout his recent presidency, golf has captivated the hearts of America’s presidents for generations. With America’s current obsession with pickleball, it’s possible we’ll see our nation’s leaders also start to pick up the paddle.
American journalist and political commentator, Chris Cillizza, is releasing a new book, “Power Players: Sports, Politics and the American Presidency,” which covers modern presidents and the sports they’ve engaged with during their lifetime. In a recent interview with CNN, Cillizza explains that he was inspired to write the book by his personal interests in sports and politics and after he realized the deep connection between the two.
“What so intrigued both of us was that with one notable exception — LBJ — every president from Eisenhower through Biden had formative experiences in athletics. Whether they were a star (Gerald Ford playing football at Michigan) or, um, not (Richard Nixon as a tackling dummy for the football team at Whittier College), they all had some early connection to sports that helped to make them who they were.”
Cillizza noted that many presidents didn’t just have the formative experience of playing a sport as a kid, but instead they continued to play sports even during their presidency. Whether it be Obama’s passion for basketball or George H.W. Bush’s impressive college baseball career, Cillizza takes a deep dive into each president’s favorite sports and looks at how they might have influenced how they governed.
Today, we see a highly divided political landscape within our nation; however, one thing that many Americans have agreed on is pickleball. Recent studies from the APP Tour have shown that 19% of Americans 18 and older have played pickleball within the last year, marking a 35% since their previous participation research study in August 2022.
In the Joe Biden chapter of the book, Cillizza acknowledges the rise of pickleball, coining the term ‘pickleball voter,’ alluding to the older, affluent people who are commonly associated with the game. Cillizza also draws a clear parallel between Biden’s candidacy and pickleball through the central idea that pickleball’s high level of inclusivity mirrors the search for unity within our nation.
“What Biden’s entire candidacy— and presidency—seem to be premised on is the same notion that pickleball is pushing: that everyone can not only participate but can ﬁnd ways to get along, too. That things don’t have to be as ugly as they are right now. That we have lots more in common than we have that makes us diﬀerent. That there is a collective national good out there, and sports helps us not only remember it but tap into it.”Power Players: Sports, Politics and the American Presidency, page 321
There’s incredible value in the concept that sports can unite us, and maybe a pickleball-playing president is just the personality we need in office to achieve that goal. And after all, If Nixon was able to build bowling lanes at the White House, who’s to say the next president won’t install pickleball courts?
I think the next president — maybe after the likely Trump-Biden race in 2024 — will be a pickleball player. Can’t you see Ron DeSantis or Gavin Newsom talking about the aerobic benefits of pickleball and having strategic conversations about not going in the “kitchen” (look it up!)Chris Cilliza, CNN Interview
Picture this: You’re at the next APP Tour event and decide to check out the Senior’s Pro Doubles event to see who made it into the finals. You approach Championship Court and hear the roar of the crowd. As you finally find your way into the stands, you take your first look at the court to discover the 1-seed duo of Joe Biden and Gavin Newsom are taking on the 2-seeded team of Donald Trump and Ron DeSantis.
Trump and DeSantis come out the gates strong with a decisive 11-3 win; Biden and Newsom are clearly still trying to figure out their on-court chemistry, as constituents still debate whether Newsom will run in the election. Things start to heat up in game two, as Newsom and Biden find their footing and DeSantis slips up in his fight against Disney, allowing Newsom and Biden to win, 11-7.
As you get excited to witness the conclusion of the game three tie-breaker, which is now tied up at 10-10, both sides decide that a filibuster is in order. Who will end up winning? No one’s likely to find out, as they will probably spend the next 3 hours debating the paddle delamination controversy.
You ultimately decide you’re better off moving on to watch Parris Todd in Women’s Pro Singles.
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