As my colleagues in the news section have been eloquently reporting for weeks, this year’s presidential election focuses on issues fundamental to what we want to be as a country: health care, taxes and the Middle East, for example. But there has been a glaring hole in this newspaper’s coverage of Decision 2012 — who will be our next fan in chief? Both Gov. Mitt Romney and President Barack Obama have strong links to sports, so let’s take a look at the scores.
Athletic Ability: Both Obama and Romney were high school athletes at elite prep schools. Obama played basketball at the Punahou School in Hawaii and Romney ran cross country at Cranbrook Schools in Michigan. Obama was a member of the 1979 Hawaii state championship team, while Romney finished last in a cross country race conducted during the halftime of a football game. Obama still makes pickup basketball an important part of his presidential schedule, but I haven’t heard much from the Romney camp about running. Romney’s choice for vice president, Paul Ryan, claimed to have run a sub-three-hour marathon, but in fact his time was more than an hour slower. Edge Obama.
Sportsmanship: While his economic policies are criticized for creating an uneven playing field for the rich, Romney’s sporting past shows a strong commitment to fair play. While serving as team manager for the Cranbrook hockey team, he ran onto the ice without skates on and attempted to break up a fight during a game. Obama on the other hand has developed a reputation for trash talk, even going so far as to tell Kobe Bryant that Derrick Rose “may have your number” after the Bulls beat the Lakers last year. Point Romney.
The deciding factor comes down to whether you want your next president to see sports through the eyes of a fan or a team owner. Romney’s wife co-owned a horse, Rafalca, which competed in the London Olympics in dressage. Romney also helped out all sports fans by funding the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
When it comes to relating to the common fan though, Romney falls short. He infamously attempted to appeal to NASCAR dads by telling them he was friends with many NASCAR team owners. He consistently says “sport” like an English aristocrat rather than “sports” like a normal fan.
Obama has seemed to use a similar amount of his presidential powers to advocate for a playoff in college football as he has to pass immigration reform. It may be coincidence, but there is no denying that since Obama got involved, we now have plans for a four-team playoff in college football beginning next year. Obama has participated in the most common of fan rituals: filling out an NCAA basketball tournament bracket. Each year, he fills out his bracket on ESPN and pretends that he bases his picks on nothing more than gut feelings and personal allegiances, like a true fan.
I’m a sports fan and an athlete, not an owner. Mitt Romney put up a strong battle, but in the end, Obama got him with a quick crossover dribble and finished it off with a silky-smooth finger roll. Four more years!