The GOP Candidates Love Sports, Too

As the road to the Iowa caucus shortens, and the three-ring circus of American politics continues with an intensity that would make PT Barnum blush, every facet of a candidate’s past becomes public knowledge. Whether it be George W. Bush’s stint as a cheerleader, or Gerald Ford’s impressive career as a lineman for the University of Michigan, sports sometimes play a role in the backgrounds of presidential hopefuls. This year, in particular, the Republican slate is one of particular athletic prowess. Although Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands has little to do with his ability as a slot receiver, and Carly Fiorina only sounds like the name of a lesser-known Tonya Harding victim, other candidates are respected luminaries of the sports world.

Marco Rubio, College Football Player: If you, like many, believe that Marco Rubio was born into the world a fully formed, ready-for-CNN political candidate, you might be surprised to hear that he actually received a football scholarship out of high school. Although this scholarship was from the now defunct and always unknown Tarkio College in Missouri, and the 5’9” Rubio only stayed for a year, the Senator can claim he once possessed some degree of skill as a player of AMERICA’S GAME. Rubio can add this to his resume, but he didn’t play long enough to risk cognitive damage, which would no doubt have been used as a weapon by a straw-grasping rival. Another smooth move, Marco.

John Kasich, Sporting Goods Store Visitor: Although John Kasich does not likely have a good curveball, nor the ability to pole vault, he once visited a sporting goods store on a campaign stop. Although one could argue that Kasich simply picked the store because it was a large public space ideal for a meet-and-greet, he could have just as easily picked a department store or a hardware store. Maybe John Kasich is just a salt-of-the-earth, sports kind of guy. He presides over a state that’s home to the two most punchline-worthy franchises in the NFL, so if he’s looking to lock in the votes of sports fans, he may do well to extradite Johnny Manziel and Marvin Lewis to Canada.

Ted Cruz, NerdSportz King: Take one look in the beady eyes of Ted Cruz and you know he doesn’t have the clutch gene. Cruz’s track record in non-sports for dweebs is impeccable, though, and this is coming from a dweeb who has spent many hours on such endeavors as competitive math and Quiz Bowl. His experiences dwarf mine. Cruz represented Harvard at something called the World Debate Championships, an event that sounds so archetypically eggheaded that I had to triple-check if it actually existed. Indeed it does, and indeed, Cruz and his partner lost to an Australian from Singapore whose first language was not English. Really speaks to the value added to a country by immigration, a cause I’m sure Cruz continues to champion in his role as lawmaker born outside of the US.

Jeb Bush, Black Sheep: Looks like all the sports genes went to W. W was the one who owned a baseball team. W was the one who rallied America by throwing a strike right down the middle shortly after 9/11. Jeb Bush, unlike the other Floridian in this race, didn’t have the HUSTLE to play college football. Jeb wasn’t BUILT FOR WAR, he struggled through his years at perhaps America’s most elite private school, apparently bullied smaller kids, and got worse grades than W! That entire article is an advertisement for Jeb’s LACK OF GRIT. Remember when Jeb was offered the job of NFL commissioner after Paul Tagliabue retired? Imagine how badly that would have gone now that you know these things about Jeb. He would have been in the locker room poking at Jonathan Martin with Richie Incognito! He was governor of Florida, a state that has no expectation of being ruled according to just laws! Tom Brady would have gotten the literal chair for Deflategate!

Donald Trump, Multi-Sport Gadfly: I can find no evidence that Donald Trump has ever been good at any sport. Trump IS, however, fabulously wealthy, and has managed to leave his mark on multiple sports by sheer dint of his largesse. Trump, who would probably not defeat very many professional boxers, is a member of the New Jersey Boxing Hall of Fame alongside dozens and dozens and dozens of what I can only assume are boxers of yesteryear (and, amusingly, Al Capone). Trump, who claims a handicap of 4 on the links, has had an entire article written by a major newspaper solely about how various celebrities know him to be a gigantic cheater at golf. Therein, you will find that he claims to have hit a 66 in West Palm Beach, Florida, breaking the amateur record for the course. That course? The Trump International of Palm Beach, coincidentally. In fact, I have a very good guess as to who holds the amateur record at all of the other 15 acclaimed Trump courses worldwide. One can argue that Trump’s footprint on multiple sports may be larger than that of any other person in America who possesses no athletic talent. Inspirational, indeed.

Chris Christie, Need I Say More?: By far, the most impressive sports resume on the GOP debate stage belongs to New Jersey governor Chris Christie. The accolades are staggering: after an impressive Cleveland-area high school football career, Christie signed on to play for Gerry Faust at Notre Dame and was named a defensive captain in his senior year. He was then selected in the 1985 NFL draft and spent 8 seasons playing defensive tackle for the Oilers, Eagles and Dolphins. Not to, he launched a radio broadcasting career in the ‘90s and continues to be among the most popular ESPN personalities, with his partner Mike Greenberg, seen pictured with Christie here. How he managed to build a top-flight political career concurrently with all of this other stuff afoot is a matter for the history books.


Jaime Alayon is a writer whose presidential poll numbers rival Rand Paul’s. You should follow him on Twitter.