Sunday, February 6, 2011

Ronald Reagan, Sarah Palin, and Super Bowl football

Today marks a unique day with the a dual celebration of American political history and American sports culture. February 6th, 2011 is both President Reagan's 100th birthday and arguably the biggest sports/American pop culture event of the year--the Super Bowl. Although President Reagan never played professional football, but he played both high school and college football, playing Right Guard (arguably the same position he took on national defense later in life). He even once said, " [g]oing to college gave me the chance to play football four more years." Sports was a passion of his.

Ronald Reagan as a Eureka
College football player

Reagan spent some time as Midwestern sports announcer in the early and mid 1930s, which opened the door his acting career when he covered the Chicago Cubs' spring training near Hollywood in 1937. He later would star in Knute Rockne-All American, a 1940 film about Notre Dame football where Reagan play George Gipp. The film included a very memorably line that later became a political slogan for him: "The last thing George said to me, 'Rock,' he said, 'sometime when the team is up against it and the breaks are beating the boys, tell them to go out there with all they've got and win just one for the Gipper.'

During his presidency, he showed his love for the game. He and his wife, Nancy, were among many who welcomed the Washington Redskins at the airport following their victory in Super Bowl XVII When Reagan was re-elected in 1984, crushing Walter Mondale, his inauguration was on the same day as the 1985 Super Bowl. The public ceremonies were held the next day following the game, and President Reagan performed the coin toss via satellite for the game between the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers.

In addition to their optimism, embrace of American exceptionalism,and embodiment of conservative principles, President Reagan and Governor Palin both started their careers in sports broadcasting--Reagan as a radio sports announcement and Palin as a TV sports news anchor. Governor Palin never played organized football, but her daughter, Bristol, played. Interestingly, Governor Palin has some ties to both teams in today's Super Bowl. Governor Palin is on the record as growing up a Pittsburgh Steelers' fan because of their success in the 1970s with their "Steel Curtain" defense. However, she reportedly attended a Jets-Packers game with Governor Christie during this past NFL regular season. No word on which team she cheered for. On a somewhat related note, a column in The Fort Morgan Times in Colorado even compared the Packers' post season success to Governor Palin's hunting abilities:
The Green Bay Packers reached the Super Bowl Sunday, capping off a stellar playoff run by beating Chicago. In three weeks they knocked off the Eagles and Falcons and Bears. It takes forty-nine extra-large men to keep up with Sarah Palin during hunting season.
Governor Palin and Todd Palin are now reportedly Seattle Seahawks' fans, but it seems Trig Palin may be a Steelers' fan. Governor Palin has spoken out in various ways regarding an aspect of the most two recent Super Bowls. In 2009, Governor Palin and a group of Alaskans gave a shout out to America's military prior to that game:

Last year, she spoke out in support of a pro-life ad that was denied the opportunity to be shown during the Super Bowl due to the anti-woman's empowerment message of NOW. She recognized the importance of this message,and the unique opportunity the Super Bowl provides for disseminating that message to millions of Americans. She wrote on Facebook:
Women’s Rights groups, like NOW, commendably call out advertisers and networks for airing sexist and demeaning portrayals of women that lead to young women’s diminished self-esteem and acceptance of roles as mere sexed-up objects.

What a ridiculous situation they’re getting themselves into now with their protest of CBS airing a pro-life ad during the upcoming Super Bowl game. The ad will feature Heisman trophy winner Tim Tebow and his mom, and they’ll speak to the sanctity of life and the beautiful potential within every innocent child as Mrs. Tebow acknowledges her choice to give Tim life, despite less than ideal circumstances. Messages like this empower women! This speaks to the strength and commitment and nurturing spirit within women. The message says everything positive and nothing negative about the power of women – and life. Evidently, some women’s rights groups like NOW do not like that message.
Governor Palin has always noted the life lessons that can be learned from sports--they healthiness of competition, the blessings of learning teamwork, and the enjoyment of being active. In a time when the world seems be going crazy, it's sometimes good to take a step back and realize those things that we have the opportunity to enjoy as Americans--the Super Bowl being among them. For many, it is the enjoyment of watching competition, others the team spirit and pride if their chosen team makes it to the final game, others it's simply the uniqueness and humor of the commercials scattered throughout the game. In many ways, those things represent those core American values that both Reagan and Palin embody. The competition and commercials represent the free market principles, that when allowed to be manifested, allow Americans to be prosperous and the economy to grow. The team pride and spirit is representative of the patriotism and embrace of American exceptionalism, never better communicated by Reagan and Palin. So whether you're donning a Cheesehead tonight or waving a Terrible towel, be sure to raise your glass to the man celebrating his 100th birthday today and the woman celebrating her 47th birthday on Friday.

H/T Go Long for the Gipper

Related: Fox will play this video prior to kickoff at the Super Bowl:

Crossposted here.

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