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.
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,”
- Michael Beschloss, Nov. 14, 2014
The campaign rejected Lombardi, however, upon learning he was a Democrat. Before you say they could not have done worse, however, than the political novice Lombardi, consider that Nixon’s ultimate choice was Maryland governor Spiro Agnew, who spent four and a half years as Nixon’s attack dog railing against the evils of anti-war protesters and ethnic Americans before he was forced to resign in a tax fraud scandal.
In the White House, football often seemed to be the president’s first love when he wasn’t conducting secret diplomacy or plotting the fall of both his real and imagined enemies. The now-public presidential recordings captured by Nixon’s automatic taping system reveal all the horrors of his administration, but quite a few also capture him watching Redskins games or talking to Washington coach George Allen. One classic tape captures Nixon calling Allen for what amounted to a post-game interview after a big victory over the Dallas Cowboys on October 22, 1972. 
Up at Camp David less than two months later for the rematch, however, Nixon was left muttering “son of a bitch” as the Cowboys snuffed out Washington’s hopes for a comeback victory.
(note also Nixon’s daughter Julie in the background--
how many spouses of sports fans have felt that way?
“Uh oh, is that bad?” she asks at one point.)
 Things did not turn out so well for either the president or his beloved team that winter: as the Redskins went down to defeat to the famously-unbeaten Miami Dolphins in the Super Bowl, Nixon bombed North Vietnam, earning rage from the electorate and currying no favors from the Democratic majority in Congress which launched the Watergate investigation that would force the President from office a year and a half later.
For Richard Nixon, sports, like politics, was do or die. As with many of us, sports was an obsession for Nixon. He was not the only President, nor the only politician, to be entranced by sports. And, unlike Nixon, many other politicians were actually fairly competent athletes. I’ll examine some more links between politics and sports in the next article in this two-part series.
 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.
 For a brief discussion of Nixon’s Whittier college days and an overall excellent TV biography of Richard Nixon, seehttp://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/nixon/
 Michael Beschloss, “The President Who Never Earned His Varsity Letter,” Nov. 14, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/15/upshot/the-president-who-never-earned-his-varsity-letter.html?_r=0
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYCo0RU_BNo (note also Nixon’s daughter Julie in the background—how many spouses of sports fans have felt that way? “Uh oh, is that bad?” she asks at one point.)