Ed Driscoll

Why Not Just Shave the Last Two Words off the Headline?

“Obama Should Keep Quiet About Football,” Tevi Troy writes at Real Clear Politics, noting that discussing America’s most popular professional sport (besides ladies beach volleyball, of course) has only gotten previous chief executives into trouble:

President Obama’s recent call to Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie has already caused the president some political headaches.

First, the Washington Post reported that Obama again steps outside the lines, weighing in on a controversial issue that is unrelated to his presidency. In addition, Obama has been hit by liberal blogger Ezra Klein for being somewhat disingenuous about the reason for the call, with the White House now claiming that he called Lurie to talk about efficient energy use and unspecified “other things.” And of course, animal rights advocates are understandably upset that Obama implicitly praised Vick, who has paid a significant debt to society for his sins against our canine friends.

Obama’s problem in this situation, however, may not be related to any of the above problems so much as making the cardinal presidential mistake of weighing in on or commenting about football. The football curse has plagued presidents for nearly a century, perhaps since Teddy Roosevelt famously intervened in 1905 to get college football teams to agree to use both helmets and more serious safety rules to cut down on injuries and deaths.

Even back in the 1920s, when gridiron great Red Grange visited the White House, the laconic Calvin Coolidge bizarrely said “Nice to meet you, young man. I’ve always enjoyed animal acts.” But Coolidge’s comment was relatively harmless to his presidency. Other presidents have made enough mistakes on football to populate an entire blooper bowl, particularly Richard Nixon.

Nixon’s poor judgment in sending failed football plays to Washington Redskins coach George Allen prompted the columnist Art Buchwald to write “If George Allen doesn’t accept any more plays from Richard Nixon, he may go down in history as one of pro football’s greatest coaches.”

As Troy notes, “Obama’s off-script efforts often get him into trouble in other areas as well, whether it be poor performances when he lacks a teleprompter, or off-key comments on race and police in the case of Louis Gates’ arrest. After two years in the White House, Obama needs to learn to stay far away from sports, especially football, and stick to his script.”