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The Games Presidents Play: Sports and the Presidency

John Sayle Watterson, Author
John Sayle Watterson, Author . Johns Hopkins Univ. $29.95 (402p) ISBN 978-0-8018-8425-2
Paperback - 402 pages - 978-0-8018-9258-5
Hardcover - 1 pages - 978-1-4356-9191-9
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Sports historian Watterson (College Football: History, Spectacle, Controversy ) suggests that presidents' athletic endeavors reveal a lot about their actions in office: presidents who play team sports, for example, are more likely to approach the presidency as a team player. Though Watterson glances briefly at 18th- and 19th-century presidents, this book really begins with the ever-so-athletic Teddy Roosevelt. In the 20th century, presidents used sports to craft a manly image; indeed, athletic ability has become almost a prerequisite for getting elected. One of the most surprising chapters examines Calvin Coolidge, perhaps the least athletic of the modern presidents, yet he was savvy about sport, cozying up to athletic stars and turning his awkward attempts at fishing into a symbol of his rural roots. Bill Clinton was not a natural athlete, but he loved golf. Yet he sometimes broke the rules on the links—a cavalier attitude that, in Watterson's view, foreshadowed his troubles with Monica Lewinsky. Occasionally, Watterson overstates his case, as when he claims, "Increasingly, sports have defined the presidency," or when he argues that Woodrow Wilson's efforts to reform college football presaged his 1913 call for progressive banking and tariff reform. Nonetheless, this is an enjoyable study of politics and culture. 30 b&w photos, 1 illus. (Oct. 31)

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