Looking for a political topic that won’t get anybody angry on this day after the election. Maybe this works, sticking strictly to sports.
If you were putting together a football team of previous U.S. presidents, which one fits best at each position?
I’ll take a whack at it, and then you, refusing to let any faint hint of partisanship slip by unpunished, can take a whack at me.
Quarterback: George Washington
First in War. First in Peace. First-and-10, Do it Again. Remember the old myth that George once threw a silver dollar across the Potomac River? You don’t waste a rocket arm like that.
Running back: Bill Clinton
You want somebody slippery here. Nobody had moves like Clinton, and when he did take a solid hit like impeachment, it wasn’t enough to stop him.
Fullback: Andrew Jackson
The man who plays this position has to be willing to sacrifice his body. Ol’ Hickory fought duels in defense of his wife’s honor and lived his final 40 years with a bullet from one of those confrontations embedded close to his heart.
Offensive line: Millard Fillmore, James Buchanan, Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, James K. Polk
Never heard of any of them, right? Any offensive lineman who ever has lived can relate to that.
Tight end: George H.W. Bush
Poppy played in the College World Series as a first baseman at Yale and enlisted after Pearl Harbor to become a Navy aviator. Sounds like a guy who could snag any throw in his general neighborhood and, when needed, could shift right into attack mode as an aggressive blocker.
Wide receiver: Abraham Lincoln
At 6-feet-4, Honest Abe was tall enough to go up and high-point any pass.
Wide receiver: John F. Kennedy
JFK always looked happy and spry in those family videos of touch football on the lawn at Hyannis Port. Little wary about that chronic back problem, though. Might be tough keeping him off I.R.
Defensive end: James Monroe
In the presidential election of 1820, the Virginian received all but one of the available votes in the electoral college. Talk about your irresistible force.
Nose tackle: William Howard Taft
Think Vince Wilfork, uncommonly agile in mind and body. Taft weighed 340 pounds at the end of his presidency and then went on to serve as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Defensive end: Barack Obama
Despite repeated attempts by opponents to do an end run on Obamacare, Barry set the edge and held it.
Linebacker: Gerald Ford
The most obvious choice of all. He played linebacker (and center) for two unbeaten Michigan teams that claimed national championships in 1932 and 1933.
Linebacker: Teddy Roosevelt
If you’re looking for a wild-eyed Bull Moose of a run-stopper, TR is your man. Had those Mike Singletary eyes, magnified behind tiny pince-nez spectacles.
Linebacker: Ulysses S. Grant
He plowed ahead while other Union generals sat and discussed strategy during the Civil War. Bit of a wild streak, too, with a flask generally handy somewhere in the tent.
Linebacker: Zachary Taylor
As a general, his free-lancing along the Rio Grande helped bring about the Mexican-American war. Coached to seek out trouble and happily followed those orders.
Cornerback: Harry Truman
Learned position on the fly as next man up during dangerous times. Bold and scrappy once named the first-stringer.
Safety: Dwight Eisenhower
Reputation as supreme Allied commander kept everybody confident that Ike would always save the day. The job description of a safety is no different.
Safety: William Henry Harrison
His troops held their position for more than two hours when surprised by larger numbers at the Battle of Tippecanoe. Just what you’re looking for in a last line of defense.
Cornerback: Richard Nixon
No matter how many penalty flags flew, he could be counted on to turn to the ref, a look of surprise on his face, saying “I am not a crook.”
Kicker: John Quincy Adams
They tried to freeze him with a time-out when the 1824 vote failed to provide an Electoral College majority. Kept his focus and won in overtime, with a vote in the House of Representatives.
Overwhelmed by multiple problems on a crazy 1960s scale, he decided not to run for re-election. Prudent play, without fourth-down bravado.
OK, all we need is a play-by-play announcer (Ronald Reagan, the great communicator) and a cheerleader (George W. Bush filled that role in his prep school days) and it’s time to kick off.
Who wants to be shirts and skins?