The private lives of American Presidents and sports are two areas that attract much public interest, and it is goal of this study to use the interaction of these subjects to explain the public’s strange fascination with Richard Nixon, and explain how and why he connected with the American people. The American public has mixed feelings about the 37th President of the United States. The reasons for his unpopularity are easy enough to understand, given the negative tactics he used throughout his political career and the way in which he left office in disgrace. His popularity while a working politician and in retirement are a little more difficult to explain. And he was popular. The Nixon and Elvis phenomenon and the outpouring of emotion at the time of his death are only two examples of the favor in with the American people held him.
The intersection of politics and athletic competition is a legitimate area of study in trying to find the answer to these questions, because Nixon manipulated his ceremonial duties as President and the public’s interest in sports to his political advantage. In some cases it was quite intentional, such as the effort of the White House staff to arrange a photo opportunity on the front lawn of the executive mansion with race car driver Mario Andretti, so Nixon could develop some popularity among race fans. Others were less intentional, such as his habit of attending baseball and football games and watching the game from the stands with all the other fans, presenting himself as a man of the people, rather than viewing from a luxury box with the team owner or on the sidelines or in the dugouts with the players. Although his use of sports was a political asset, Nixon’s interest was genuine. Professional baseball, and football, both college and pro, were his main loves. But he also had a real fondness for golf, and a variety of water sports, such as sailing, swimming, and surfing—his daughters gave him a custom made surfboard for his birthday in 1969. The President’s record of providing social and cultural leadership in the area of sports is another topic that this study examines. Here is record is mixed. Unlike his hero Theodore Roosevelt, who helped create the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) while in office, Nixon repeatedly backed away from opportunities to use the prestige of his office to have an influence in the world of sport, such as preventing the relocation of the Washington Senators baseball team to the Dallas-Ft. Worth area. He did, however, attempt to use sport as venue to shape cultural values.
This site offers a number of a number of features related to this forthcoming book. A Timeline page records in chronological fashion all the major initiatives Nixon took during his administration concerning sports. It also records several important events that both kept him in office and eventually led to his early departure from the White House. A Photos page presents a number of images taken from official White House collections and from a variety American newspapers. Captions accompany these photos and help put them in context. Nixon made a number of remarks and speeches about sports and a Quotes page presents a number of these comments. A couple of articles that focus on specific episodes of Nixon's involvement with sports have already appeared in print. The citations for these essays appear on the Related Publications page. An annotated listing of the source material being used to produce One Powerful Fan: Nixon and Sports is included in the Bibliography page. The Media Recognition page is a listing of those media outlets that have reviewed this web site, or done some other type of story or feature on related publications. The qualifications and educational training of Nicholas Evan Sarantakes, the author of this forthcoming study are presented on the Author Background page.
A few words of thanks are in order at this point. Mike Burns did
an incredible amount of difficult working in helping establish this site.
The design of the graphics on the main page of this site was his handiwork.
Many of the images on the Photos page would not exist if it were not for
the efforts of Crystal Hurley, the secretary in the history department
at Texas A&M University—Commerce. She scanned these images and,
for that matter, most of the other images that appear on the pages of this
site. If not for her work, this would be a very boring site.
With such assistance any errors that remain are the responsibility of the
author, and the author alone.
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