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The Games Presidents Play
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The Games Presidents Play provides a new way to view the American presidency. Looking at the athletic strengths, feats, and shortcomings of our presidents, John Sayle Watterson explores not only their health, physical attributes, personalities, and sports IQs, but also the increasing trend of Americans in the past century to equate sporting achievements with courage, manliness, and political competence. The author of College Football begins with George Washington, whose athleticism contributed to his success on the battlefield and may well have contributed to the birth of the republic. He moves seamlessly into the nineteenth century when, for presidents like Jackson, Lincoln, and Cleveland, frontier sports were part of their formative years. With the twentieth-century presidents—most notably the hyperactive and headline-grabbing Theodore Roosevelt—Watterson shows how the growth of mass media and the improved means of transportation transformed presidential sports into both a form of recreation and a means of establishing a positive self-image. Modern presidents have used sports with varying degrees of success. Herbert Hoover fled Washington on weekends to the trout pools of Camp Rapidan in the Blue Ridge to escape relentless pressures and public criticism during the Great Depression. Franklin Roosevelt demonstrated remarkable physical endurance in his campaign to restore his ravaged body from polio. An obsessive love affair with golf became an issue for Dwight Eisenhower in his campaign for reelection in 1956. Richard Nixon, a former third-string college football lineman, placed calls to Coach George Allen of the Washington Redskins, once suggesting a trick play in a big game. From the opening pitch of the baseball season to presenting awards to Olympic champions, our sports culture asks the president to play an increasingly active role. Sports, Watterson argues, open a window into the presidency, shedding new light on presidential behavior and offering new perspectives on the office and the sporting men—and women—who have and will occupy it.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover
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  1. Frontmatter
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  1. Contents
  2. pp. vii-viii
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  1. Preface
  2. pp. ix-xi
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  1. Introduction
  2. pp. 1-5
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  1. PART I. FOUNDATIONS
  2. p. 7
  1. Chapter 1. In the Beginning
  2. pp. 9-19
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  1. Chapter 2. The Sporting Frontier
  2. pp. 20-26
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  1. Chapter 3. Barely Visible to Press and Public
  2. pp. 27-34
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  1. PART II. THE MAN WHO CHANGED EVEYTHING
  2. p. 35
  1. Chapter 4. Theodore Roosevelt: Climbing the Mountain
  2. pp. 37-46
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  1. Chapter 5. Sports and the Presidency: The Founding Father
  2. pp. 47-62
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  1. Chapter 6. Inside TR’s Sporting Presidency
  2. pp. 63-72
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  1. PART III. SPORTS: ACCEPTABLE BUT NOT REQUIRED
  2. p. 73
  1. Chapter 7. William Howard Taft: A Large Legacy
  2. pp. 75-90
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  1. Chapter 8. Woodrow Wilson: More than Just a Game
  2. pp. 91-106
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  1. Chapter 9. Warren Harding: The Wager He Didn’t Win
  2. pp. 107-118
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  1. Chapter 10. Calvin Coolidge: Grace, under Pressure
  2. pp. 119-132
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  1. Chapter 11. Herbert Hoover: No Place to Hide
  2. pp. 133-148
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  1. Chapter 12. Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Politically and Physically Challenged
  2. pp. 149-169
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  1. PART IV. FLIGHT FROM WASHINGTON
  2. p. 171
  1. Chapter 13. Harry S Truman: Striding—and Flying—into History
  2. pp. 173-184
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  1. Chapter 14. Dwight D. Eisenhower: Hero under Assault
  2. pp. 185-200
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  1. Chapter 15. John F. Kennedy: Swimming into Politics
  2. pp. 201-216
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  1. Chapter 16. Lyndon Johnson: The Games He Didn’t Play
  2. pp. 217-226
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  1. PART V. IN THE PUBLIC EYE
  2. p. 227
  1. Chapter 17. Richard Nixon: Show Me a Good Loser . . .
  2. pp. 229-244
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  1. Chapter 18. Gerald Ford: The Pigskin President
  2. pp. 245-260
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  1. Chapter 19. Jimmy Carter: More than Meets the Eye
  2. pp. 261-274
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  1. Chapter 20. Ronald Reagan: Creating a Sports Legend
  2. pp. 275-292
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  1. Chapter 21. George H. W. Bush: TR Revisited
  2. pp. 293-308
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  1. PART VI. NEW PLAYERS, OLD GAMES
  2. p. 309
  1. Chapter 22. Bill Clinton: Oh, How He Played the Game
  2. pp. 311-322
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  1. Chapter 23. George W. Bush: From Bush Leagues to the Majors
  2. pp. 323-336
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  1. Conclusion
  2. pp. 337-354
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  1. Appendix: Ranking the Presidents
  2. pp. 355-360
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  1. Notes
  2. pp. 361-384
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  1. Suggested Reading
  2. pp. 385-394
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  1. Index
  2. pp. 395-402
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