Thursday, February 21, 2008

Past Presidents Fab Five

(This article appeared in its entirety Wednesday on The Love Of Sports. If you missed it before, here's another chance to read it. Isn't life great?)

As is often the case after returning from a three-day weekend, a friendly co-worker asked me how I spent my holiday. I imagine I spent it in much the same way as any other red-blooded American sports fan would pass the time on Presidents’ Day.

This federal holiday is a time to relax and reflect upon democracy - and the pillars upon which it’s formed. So, it logically follows that I spent over 12 hours of my day leisurely flipping through The Constitution and The United States Bill of Rights.

Oh sure, I also spent an hour poring over The Articles of Confederation (our nation’s original constitution) but it’s only 5 pages long, and it’s a rather quick read.

Why, you might ask, did I spend so much of my holiday studying a 219 year-old document?

I don’t know. I guess I just love me some Constitution.

Think about it. Everything we hold near and dear is wrapped up within this one beautiful package – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to trial by jury, and protection from having to quarter troops in one’s home.

And so, in the spirit of Presidents’ Day, I decided to assemble a fantasy basketball team - composed not of unusually tall pro athletes, but rather, from freakishly noble and utterly indefatigable heroes of politics. I present to you, ladies and gentleman, your 2008 Fantasy Past Presidents All-Star Basketball Team:

Point Guard – James Madison
Both the shortest (5’4”) and the lightest (about 100 lbs) President, Madison would most likely have been the quickest President as well. His steady, if tiny, hands were responsible for the introduction of the three-branch federal system. No doubt, this true father of the Constitution would be a reliable field general, and would always know exactly when to fling that rock through the paint to a streaking Abe Lincoln. Also, as a proud Princeton grad, Madison would certainly be an expert three-point shooter, and adept at operating the offense at an excruciatingly slow and deliberate pace.

Shooting Guard – Andrew Jackson
Jackson was affectionately known as “Old Hickory” – a reference dating back to his heroic service during the War of 1812. He was known for both his offense and defense, and was an expert marksman. It was rumored that he could shoot a squirrel between the eyes at 50 paces. During Jackson’s Presidency, both Arkansas and Michigan were admitted into the union as the 25th and 26th states, respectively. It’s no coincidence that both states’ schools have since produced some of the highest scoring college basketball teams of all time.

Small Forward – Thomas Jefferson
Jefferson did it all. He drafted the Declaration of Independence, signed the Constitution, served as governor of Virginia, was Vice President under John Adams, and served two successful terms as President. He was also Secretary of State under George Washington, and served as foreign minister to France. Additionally, he was an accomplished architect, archeologist, founder of the University of Virginia, and avid wine connoisseur. He was known to be of good height (around six feet tall) and of excellent posture. There is no doubt in my mind that he would effortlessly score from under the basket or around the perimeter, grab rebounds on both ends of the court, and pilfer a few balls from his opponents during each game. Additionally, he could probably dunk one-handed while holding his snuffbox and bifocals in the other hand.

Power Forward – Grover Cleveland
Cleveland, the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms, was a man among boys. During his second term, he was faced with the Panic of 1893 – a stock market crash the likes of which the country hadn’t witnessed before. Cleveland grabbed that bull by the horns and twisted it into submission, figuratively speaking. Additionally, his administration is credited with modernizing the navy, allowing it to easily defeat Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898. Most importantly, however, was Cleveland’s legendary stature - he weighed in at almost 300 pounds. That kind of girth could take up some serious space in the paint. I can easily picture him boxing out down low, and grabbing boards left and right. I bet he’d average over 12 rebounds a game. Also, I’m sure he’d set some wicked picks to help free up Madison or Jackson, allowing for some open looks from behind the arc.

Center – Abraham Lincoln
This one’s a no-brainer. Lincoln was quite simply “the man.” He was the tallest President, and the first one to wear a beard. The beard would only serve to further intimidate his opponents on the court. “The Great Emancipator” was a brilliant orator, a political scholar, and surprisingly mobile for a man of his size. Ultimately, he couldn’t dodge John Wilkes Booth’s bullet, but Lincoln would certainly be a force to be reckoned with at the Center position. He would likely average 4 or 5 blocks per game, while grabbing 15 or 16 boards. His special scoring move would involve grabbing the diminutive James Madison around the waist, while Madison had the ball, and tossing him up toward the basket. In this way, with Lincoln’s help, Madison would be able to dunk - the perfect testament to Lincoln’s ability to lift up all men, and enable them to achieve the impossible.

And this team’s name? “The Philadelphia Founding Fathers.”

No comments: