Power Players: Sports, Politics, and the American Presidency (Hardcover)
A colorful look at how modern presidents play sports, have used sports to play politics, and what our fan-in-chief can often tell us about our national pastimes.
POWER PLAYERS tells all the great stories of presidents and the sports they played, loved and spectated as a way to better understand what it takes to be elected to lead a country driven by sports fans of all stripes. While every modern president has used sports to relate to Joe Q. Public, POWER PLAYERS turns the lens around to examine how sports have shaped our presidents and made for some amazing moments in White House history, including:
- Dwight Eisenhower played so much golf he had a putting green built outside the Oval Office! (He also almost died on a golf course while in office.)
- How John F. Kennedy’s touch-football games with family were knowing plays to polish the Camelot mystique.
- People might not have related to the aloof and awkward Richard Nixon but, hey, he would bowl a few frames just like them.
- Ronald Reagan didn’t just play the part of “The Gipper” for the silver screen, but truly adopted the famous footballer’s never-say-die persona.
- George H.W. Bush once ran a horseshoe league from the White House – with a commissioner and brackets! (He would later claim to have come up with the fan expression, “You da man.”)
- Bill Clinton’s Arkansas Razorback fandom was so intense that he could be found shouting at the referees from a box at the basketball national championship game in 1994.
- George W. Bush’s not only owned the Texas Rangers but also threw out the most iconic first pitch ever in the 2001 World Series.
- What really went down when Barack Obama played pickup hoops with the North Carolina Tarheels. (He later won the state by .3 percent of the vote.)
- Donald Trump is the only president ever featured in a professional wrestling storyline—and everything real and fake that went with that.
About the Author
Chris Cillizza spent four years as an editor at large at CNN. While there, he built a brand called The Point, which included articles, YouTube videos, and a podcast. He also regularly appeared as a political analyst on CNN’s airwaves. Prior to his time at CNN, Cillizza worked for a decade at the Washington Post, where he founded the political blog The Fix and built a reputation as the source for fast, incisive analysis of the day’s events. He was also a frequent TV guest across networks, appearing as an MSNBC political contributor for eight years. A graduate of Georgetown University, he lives in Virginia with his wife and two sons and is a die-hard Hoyas basketball fan.
“Politics is a sport of its own, so no surprise that many modern presidents have loved athletic pursuits—witness the basketball court Barack Obama built on the White House grounds for pickup games—and others used them to an end. Richard Nixon tracked daily baseball box scores as closely as the unemployment rate. While Lyndon Johnson didn’t care about baseball, he started attending Washington Senators games to cultivate favor with the powerful Georgia senator Richard Russell, who did. And then there’s Joe Biden and his Peloton bike. POWER PLAYERS is smart, lively, and fun, and presidential watcher Chris Cillizza also manages to tie the sporting side of the nation’s commanders in chief to larger insights about our leaders and their times.”—Susan Page, Washington Bureau chief of USA TODAY and author of Madam Speaker: Nancy Pelosi and the Lessons of Power
“Charming and original, Chris’s exploration of presidents and sports is a fun read for politicos and sports fans alike.”—Jake Tapper, The Lead with Jake Tapper and author of The Hellfire Club
"Chris Cillizza’s POWER PLAYERS takes us to the intersection of politics and sports and shows us why presidents like Teddy Roosevelt and John Kennedy and Barack Obama like sports so much—because the only thing that matters in sports and politics is winning.”—Tony Kornheiser, PTI and The Tony Kornheiser Show
“Only Chris Cillizza could do such a thoughtful, fresh take on the history of sports and American politics and how the two are inextricably intertwined.”—Don Lemon, CNN presenter of Don Lemon Tonight
“I’ve always been fascinated by the intersection of sports and politics, and in this book, we get to the heart of who our presidents are by examining the sports they played and watched from an expert who’s covered them for over two decades.”—Patrick McEnroe, ESPN tennis commentator
“An enjoyable, colorful look at the intersection of sports and politics.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Presidential politics and sports go hand in hand, and many of the lessons and skills one learns by participating in sports can be adapted to the world of politics... overall this is a fun and informative addition to the less-serious side of presidential history.”—Booklist Reviews
"Sports can hold a mirror to the characters of our presidents, Mr. Cillizza concludes, 'showing them for who they really are when all the spin, hype, and hyperbole are stripped away.'"—Wall Street Journal