Part 1: Richard Nixon, Sports Fan?
by: Chris Foss
The next time that you find yourself ashamed of being a sports fan, of being so emotionally invested in a game that you think has zero percent bearing on the outcome of your life yet will affect every fiber of your emotional being for the next day and a half, just consider that fandom does not solely afflict the Everywoman or the Everyman such as yourself. For an example, consider
politicians. Given that politics—for better or (mostly) worse—is defined by electoral contests, it should be no surprise that a number of our most prominent politicians have held a rooting sports interest as well. Politics is war by peaceful means, but surely sports allows the politician to sit back and enjoy a good battle without having to worry about the consequences.
Take, for example, Richard Nixon. By December of 1972, he had overcome Watergate, the Democrats, and the antiwar establishment to win a landslide reelection. But for various (probably unsettling) reasons, he retired to Camp David, the presidential retreat in Maryland, to plot what would be called the “Christmas bombing” of North Vietnam in the concluding weeks of the Vietnam War. As the real war raged, and as the president plotted to escalate the conflict, he took comfort in the non-war of sports to relax, and he was particularly energized by the play of his beloved Washington Redskins.
Nixon was arguably the biggest sports fan who has ever held the White House. In 1970, he traveled to the MLB All-Star Game to see Pete Rose barrel over Ray Fosse while sliding into home base, surely the game’s most memorable moment to date.
 But the 37th President of the United States reserved his deepest love for football. As an undergraduate at Whittier College near Los Angeles in the early 1930s, Nixon played basketball and tried out for football, but was deemed “too small” to play. He doggedly remained on the team as a team manager/water boy and a substitute, however. Nixon ultimately used his football connections to form the Orthogonians, a rival social organization that challenged the hegemony of the Franklins, the college’s preexisting fraternity-like group which had earlier snubbed him.
"Notably, a similar thing happened to FDR: at Harvard,
he was rejected by the premier social organization there, the Porcellian Club, before going on to political fame."
It was at Whittier, thus, that Nixon had his first real taste of the political arena, arguably aided by his love for the sporting arena. 
An excellent New York Times article written last year discusses at length Nixon’s obsession with football and how it intermingled with his subsequent political life. Calling him “the president who never earned his varsity letter,” the article depicts him crediting Ohio State coach Woody Hayes with securing the state’s electoral votes in his unsuccessful 1960 run for president, and later considering Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi as his running mate in 1968.
“The President Who Never Earned His Varsity Letter,”