Most US presidents have been “obsessed with sports”, says Chris Cillizza in Inside Hook. It makes sense: you have to be “maniacally competitive” to survive the cut-throat world of politics and make it to the top job. George H W Bush was captain of his baseball team at Yale and ran a horseshoe league out of the White House. (Later in life, his “insane competitiveness” was channelled into contests with his grandchildren over who would fall asleep first.) Richard Nixon had bowling lanes specially built so he could practise skittling pins “for hours on end”. After one particularly impressive performance, he asked his press team to spread the word about “how good a bowler he was”.
But the most popular sport among presidents is golf. Before his election, Donald Trump famously berated Barack Obama for indulging in a round despite the “problems and difficulties facing the US”. In 2016, Trump told a rally: “I’m not going to have time to go golfing, believe me.” In fact, he played on average one round every 5.6 days during his term; Obama hit the links once every 8.8. But they had nothing on Dwight Eisenhower, who “played 10 times this amount” – keeping his short game tight on a green he had installed outside the Oval Office.
Power Players: Sports, Politics, and the American Presidency by Chris Cillizza is available here.