Joseph Salamon, News Editor
As I’m sure you know, we’ve reached the halfway mark of the 2018 Winter Olympic games in Pyeongchang. Medals have been won, dreams have been achieved, hearts have been broken, and Mikaela Shiffrin is still kicking ass and taking names.
While many sports generate a lot of intrigue across the internet and international broadcasts, one of the most celebrated sports to take place at the Games over the years has been the bobsled event.
The subject of the beloved Disney classic “Cool Runnings,” Olympic bobsledding has become a focal point for armchair Olympians for about 48 hours every four years. Since it seems to have become tradition for television viewers to immediately assume the role of (insert Olympic sporting event here) expert and historian in real time, I’m passing the torch to myself to continue said practice.
The rules of my game are simple:
1) Draft a four-man bobsled team from the list of former U.S. Presidents
2) Only one Olympic Era (1924 – present) president can be chosen
3) No Rushmore Presidents
I understand that the last one may seem harsh, but let’s be real here. Mount Rushmore is basically a stone-carved depiction of a perfectly drafted presidential bobsled team. No one is allowed four number-one picks in any type of sports draft. It just wouldn’t be fair that way. Before we get down to the nitty gritty, though, it’s important to learn a little bit about the sport. For approximately 100 percent of us, it’s been four years since we’ve even watched a bobsled event, much less brushed up on the rules of the sport. Thankfully, Wikipedia is here to help.
A four-man bobsled team is comprised of a pilot, two pushers, and a brakeman. The overall weight limit of the group cannot exceed 1,389 pounds and can be no less than 364. Even though gravity plays a big role in a team’s success, that last little bit of information puts the larger presidents on the chopping block. That’s right, I’m looking at you Grover Alexander, Chester Arthur, and William Taft. Although it is a largely disputed point, the fact that Taft once—allegedly—got stuck in a bathtub is concerning to me, in drafting the best bobsled team (and also in general). I cannot in good conscience put someone in a bobsled if I’m not completely sure they won’t be able to dislodge. Conversely, I wouldn’t want to build a team with the small guys, either—hasta la vista James Madison, Martin Van Buren, and Benjamin Harrison. So now, with a trimmed-down draft class, it’s time to get to picking.
Brakeman – Gerald Ford
My self-imposed rule of only having one Olympic Era president on the squad made this a tough choice, and while there can certainly be strong cases made for other modern presidents, I’m not sure it’s even possible to make a case against Ford.
Standing at a formidable six feet, weighing in just under 200 pounds, Ford without question possesses the physical build to be the team’s caboose. To make his hypothetical bobsled resume even stronger, the guy played center AND linebacker for TWO undefeated Michigan Wolverine football teams in the early 30s.
Make no mistake, the thirty-eighth president of our United States was an absolute unit. His football background hints at a low center of gravity and iron resolve that lead me to believe he’d be the best bobsled brakeman available.
Pushers – Rutherford B. Hayes and Ulysses S. Grant
The pushers have the task of generating momentum at the beginning of the sled run. With each pusher standing across the sled from one another, the importance of remaining in sync cannot be understated.
Since these pre-twentieth-century presidents have less personal information available (at the top of their Wikipedia pages), I had to dive a little bit deeper (scroll down a little bit on their Wikipedia pages) to build my case. What I found was astounding.
From a strictly physical standpoint, both men stood five feet, eight inches tall. Their identical heights would lead one to believe that their strides are similar—something you’d look for when selecting your team’s pushers. The similarities do not stop there and, if anything, they get a little creepy.
BOTH were born in 1822, BOTH are from Ohio, BOTH served in the Civil War, BOTH were Methodist, BOTH were Republican, and BOTH were sworn in as Commander in Chief on March 4. Have you ever heard of those stories in which twins are separated at birth and reconvene decades later to find that they’re living eerily similar lives, unbeknownst to each other? I’m not saying Hayes and Grant are twins that were separated at birth, but I’m also not NOT saying that.
Pilot – John Quincy Adams
In choosing your perfect presidential pilot, you need to take into consideration a few things. How do they respond to pressure? Can they make split decisions? Are they good communicators? A guy like JQA checks all of these boxes. Being the first son of the second president of the country that revolted against the third biggest empire in the world, Adams knew a little bit about dealing with lofty expectations.
Adams also knows a thing or two about making deliberate, informed decisions. According to U.S. News (not Wikipedia), Adams the younger topped the presidential list with an estimated IQ of 169, 15 points ahead of the next guy. This is Einstein territory here, folks. As far as communication skills goes, Adams knew how to speak seven languages. He’d be a man about town in Olympic Village if he were around today.
Although there’s no real right answer to this hypothetical, I have to admit that I genuinely wish I could see an Adams, Hayes, Grant, Ford foursome on the ice this week. I suppose the actual bobsled event will serve as a viable consolation to my presidential fantasy.