Super Bowl Sunday is nearly upon us. Sports fans will have to be satisfied with basketball and hockey after this Sunday, until baseball season starts in a couple months.
But football and political collecting have a close connection in my house. Several times in the past 4-5 years, my wife and I have traveled to New Jersey to visit friends, and then spend Super Bowl Sunday in New York City at the Super Bowl Sunday Political Collectibles Show. The show opens at 9 a.m. and closes at 2 p.m. so we can be back in New Jersey in front of the TV when the kickoff arrives.
Baseball might be known as the national pastime, but it’s certainly not the only sport that has taken the national stage when it comes to presidents.
Many presidents have thrown out pitches at baseball games. As for football, some presidents and presidential candidates have had notable careers. Certainly presidential candidate, and then vice presidential candidate in 1996, Jack Kemp had a stellar career in the National Football League. President Gerald Ford was one of our best presidential athletes with a stellar football career at the University of Michigan.
As far back as the turn of the previous century, presidents have been involved in football. When college football was in danger of being banned for its violent ways, President Theodore Roosevelt stepped in and convened a group to look at how to change the rules and make the sport less dangerous. That group was the beginnings of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Roosevelt’s own sons played college football and he thought it was a great sport for young men.
President Richard Nixon stepped right into a hornet’s nest in 1969 when he took it upon himself to unofficially declare the University of Texas as the best college team in the land – much to the chagrin of Penn State University, which had finished the season at 11-0. Nixon tried to mend the hurt feelings, but Penn Staters never felt the same about Nixon again. There were a few cheers in State College, Pa., that summer day when Nixon had to resign because of Watergate.
Collecting football-related items might seem obscure, but it’s really not that difficult. There are items out there.
One of my favorites has always been a postcard showing Franklin Roosevelt in a football uniform standing in front of the capitol building in Washington, D.C. Below, it says “Our Quarterback.”
While most of the pins don’t mention football, in a political football-related collection any Kemp pin would seem at home. Kemp played 11 seasons in the NFL, and was league MVP in 1965. He also played three years in the Canadian Football League. Kemp pins from his presidential primary races in 1988 and VP run in 1996 are fairly common. He also served as a congressman from the Buffalo area for several terms.
There are other football-related items for Dwight Eisenhower, Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama and many others, and they can be found on Internet auction sites and at political collectibles shows.
Football and political collecting are two of my favorite activities. Combining the two on Super Bowl Sunday makes for a great day, even if my team isn’t playing in the big game.