An Oct. 29 KidsPost article incorrectly said that the Texas Rangers traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs. The Rangers traded Sosa to the Chicago White Sox in 1989, and he joined the Cubs in 1992. (Published 11/5/04)
On Tuesday, millions of Americans will decide whether George W. Bush or John F. Kerry will be president of the United States for the next four years.
Electing a president is important because that person makes decisions about whether to wage war and how the government will spend the billions of dollars it collects in taxes.
Even with such weighty issues on their minds, Bush and Kerry spent time in recent months portraying themselves as big sports guys. Kerry has been photographed windsurfing, snowboarding and playing catch. He threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game this summer and hung around to field some baseball questions.
Bush likes to run and work out. And he's a huge baseball fan, having been part-owner of the Texas Rangers at one time. Even though some people say Bush won't admit to making any mistakes, the president jokes that he was the man who traded Sammy Sosa to the Chicago Cubs. Now, that's a mistake!
Sports has been part of this campaign in other ways, too: Bush tried to label Kerry a phony fan because he called the Green Bay Packers' stadium "Lambert" Field (it's Lambeau) and said his favorite Red Sox player is "Manny Ortiz" (the Sox have Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, but no Manny Ortiz).
Bush and Kerry seem to think that some soccer moms and NASCAR dads are more likely to vote for a candidate who seems to be a big sports fan. Having a favorite team or athlete also makes a candidate seem like "one of the guys." It's hard to imagine a candidate saying he (or she) didn't like sports. It would be like saying he hated pets.
Lots of presidents have enjoyed sports. Bill Clinton (1993-2001) was a big fan of college basketball and an avid golfer. George Bush (1989-1993), father of the current president, played first base for Yale and was in the 1947 and 1948 College World Series. Gerald Ford (1974-1977) was an all-American football player at the University of Michigan, and Dwight Eisenhower (1953-1961) played for West Point until hurting his knee. John Kennedy (1961-1963) was on Harvard's swim team and liked to play touch football. Richard Nixon (1969-1974) was such a football fan that he once sent a play to the coach of the Washington Redskins. (They tried it. It wasn't successful.)
Presidents also get to do lots of cool sports stuff. They often throw out the first pitch of the baseball season. Sometimes they do the coin toss for the Super Bowl. And they host various athletes at the White House.
But all this sports stuff has nothing to do with whether someone will be a good president. One of the greatest presidents, Franklin Roosevelt (1933-1945), was not a sports guy at all. He swam a bit, but used a wheelchair most of his adult life after being stricken with polio. That didn't keep him from leading the country through the Depression and World War II.
So on Tuesday, voters shouldn't be looking for a good sport, but for someone who will be a good president.
Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports column and sports novels for kids.