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Sunday Political Brunch: The Intersection of Sports and Politics - February 4, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV – Let’s put politics to rest and talk football this Super Bowl Sunday; and, on occasion, let's see where politics and football intersect.

“Hail to the Center” – No occupant of the White House has ever played in the NFL, let alone a Super Bowl, but President Gerald Ford came the closest (photo above). Ford was an All-American Center at the University of Michigan. Ford was offered NFL contracts with the Green Bay Packers and the Detroit Lions, but decided to go to Yale Law School instead. Ford did play on a team of College All-Stars against the Chicago Bears in 1935.

“A Close Second” – Jack Kemp, 1996 Republican Vice Presidential nominee, was an NFL Quarterback for the New York Giants, but did not get to play in the 1957 NFL Championship. He also played with the San Diego Chargers and the Buffalo Bills in the old AFL, playing in five AFL Championship games, winning in 1965 and taking home the MVP trophy.

“The NFL in Congress” – Several NFL players later turned to politics and won seats in Congress. They include Steve Largent, of the Seattle Seahawks; Heath Schuler, of the Washington Redskins and the New Orleans Saints; and Jon Runyan, of the Philadelphia Eagles. Canadian football star J.C. Watts represented Oklahoma in Congress for eight years.

“Here Comes the Judge” – Alan Page was one of the greatest Defensive Linemen in NFL history. He went to law school in the off-seasons and is currently a member of the Minnesota Supreme Court. Page played in four Super Bowls and lost them all.

“Here Comes the Justice” – In college and in the NFL, he was known as Byron “Whizzer” White, and was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame. In Washington, DC, they called him Justice Byron White, the only NFL player to ever serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. He was also Deputy Attorney General to Robert F. Kennedy, and also administered the Oath of Office to Vice President Al Gore.

“That’s Quite a Class” – New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will be coaching his eigth Super Bowl team this year. Belichick is a 1971 graduate of the prestigious Phillips Academy Andover. His classmates included former Governor Jeb Bush (R-FL), a candidate for President in 2016, and former Governor Lincoln Chafee (D-RI), also a candidate for President in 2016. Patriots executive Ernie Adams was also in that class. At one of his White House Super Bowl receptions, Belichick posed with President George W. Bush, who graduated from the same prep school in 1964.

“Geography Bee” – Many people around the Unites States believe the New England Patriots play in Boston, but they don’t. After many years as the Boston Patriots, they moved to Foxboro, Massachusetts, which is actually closer to Providence than it is to Boston. Go Pats!

“Player; Coach; and Congressman” – Tom Osborne had quite a career. After graduating from Hastings College in Nebraska, he went on to play in the NFL for the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins. Later he would be one of the most successful coaches in college football history, winning three national championships at the University of Nebraska. While that’s enough of a career for one lifetime, Osborne turned to politics, winning three terms in Congress before retiring in 2007.

“My Family Connection to Super Bowl 52” – I admit I’ll be cheering for Phialdelphia Eagles Tight End Zach Ertz, whom I predicted ten years ago would be a major star. Ertz was an all-state wide receiver at Monte Vista High School, in Danville, CA. My daughter Alexandra Curtis was a classmate and one of the cheerleaders for that team. Ertz was a giant in high school. You just knew he’d be in the end zone, standing head and shoulders above the other players, catching a lot of touchdowns. He was amazing, and I predicted him to be a major college star (at Stanford), and then the NFL. He’s a fine young man! I hope he wins!

Who is your favorite athlete-politician? Just click the comment button at www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known Political Analyst. He is currently Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia, including extensive TV market penetration in Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, DC.

© 2018, Mark Curtis Media, LLC. (With material revised from pervious Super Bowl weekend columns since 2011).

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

Sunday Political Brunch: Before and After the Storms -- January 28, 2018

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CHARLESTON, WV – This is what I call a “tween” week in politics. We’re between the first anniversary of President Trump’s Inaugural (and a now ended partial government shutdown), and his first State of the Union address. There will be lots of chatter in the days ahead about “what was” and “what might be” to come. Let’s “brunch” on that this week:

“Great Expectations” – I don’t mean to steal the title of a classic novel, but the State of the Union address always seems to sum up that theme. In my lifetime (which dates back to President Eisenhower), I have yet to watch a State of the Union address that ultimately had any significant consequence. Yes, there were some great lines delivered by the likes of John Kennedy, Ronald Reagan and others, but, the speeches were more an exercise in political cheerleading, and less a public policy road map that ever got followed to any great degree. It’s like a Broadway show that opens and closes on the same night – political theater; little more.

“Could 2018 Be Different?” – I suppose so. Let’s face it, the Trump campaign and the administration have tossed out the traditional playbook (and maybe the rule book) of politics as usual. This is also the most controversial and divisive President I can remember, with approval ratings at all-time lows. Despite that, financial markets are booming and we’re in a time of relative peace (the two factors that often boost the popularity of the Commander in Chief). Again Trump, performs to the beat of a different drummer. He ran as an outsider and he remains an outsider; unlike the politically savvy Ronald Reagan who managed the political Houdini act of running as an outsider, albeit fully understanding how to grease the wheels inside the Beltway.

“On the Menu” – Topping the list, I predict he will talk about the state of the economy, and that the December tax cut legislation is already paying dividends to average people (and yes, shareholders, too). As mentioned, financial markets are hot, plus more and more big companies are announcing employee bonuses and pay raises. “Is this a long-term trend, or just a bubble?” we all ask. I bet he will claim ownership of the economy. Immigration will certainly be a focus, and I wonder if this is the moment he will lay out specifics with a bipartisan deal on DACA. Yes, he’ll still demand a border wall, I predict. He’ll probably talk tough on North Korea, and of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, but I anticipate no big foreign policy decisions. Like Reagan, I expect he will try to appeal directly to the people; not the press and policy makers.

“Everything Means Less Than Zero” – Should President Trump channel rock singer Elvis Costello in his speech? I’m serious! One of my favorite Costello lyrics comes from his song, “Less than Zero.” He sings, “Let's talk about the future now, we've put the past away.” While I’m hoping for a more visionary, forward looking State of the Union speech, I worry it’s going to be more of a visitation of old fights. I expect attacks on the “fake news” press, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, and possibly direct jabs on the policies of former Presidents Obama and Bush II. President Trump isn’t one to let old feuds go. As Senator Lindsey Graham, (R) South Carolina recently characterized him, President Trump is a “street fighter.”

“Waiting in the Wings” – It will be interesting to see camera shots of reactions in the crowd. The State of the Union is often a cameo for would-be Presidents. Thursday is February 1, and honestly the starting gate for the 2020 race for the White House. Watch for reaction shots of not only potential Democratic rivals, but Republicans, too. If you see retiring Senator Jeff Flake (R) Arizona sitting on his hands and not applauding the President with other Republicans, you can bet Flake may be calculating a 2020 primary challenge to take the nomination from Trump. Before the end of February, we will have candidates from both parties visiting New Hampshire.

“Looking Out My Backdoor” – I’m on a musical bent this week. As a former radio DJ, one of my favorite songs from Creedence Clearwater Revival, was “Looking Out My Backdoor.” When I look out my backdoor here in West Virginia, I see Ohio. There are two things two remember about the Buckeye State. 1) No Republican has ever been elected President without carrying Ohio; and, 2) Ohio has produced amongst the most President in U.S. history. Keep your eye on retiring Governor John Kasich, (R), Ohio. My bet is he’s among those first to visit New Hampshire, and will strongly consider trying to defeat Mr. Trump for renomination in 2020. Out the back door I can also see maverick Senator Rand Paul, (R) Kentucky, and wonder if he might run again, too.

“Why All of This Matters” – As I often preach here, success is about what I call, “The Four M’s of Politics!” They are money, momentum, manpower and message. President Trump has the personal wherewithal to mount a reelection campaign, even without donations (though I suspect he’d seek them); he will clearly try to claim momentum on the U.S. economy; he will have challenges to securing manpower being unpopular in sectors of his own party, but if things are going just as well a year from now, people like to jump on the bandwagon; and, finally – perhaps his most difficult challenge – staying on message. From the “Tweet wars” to the relentless media bashing, and proclivity to refight old fights, “message” may be his Achilles Heel. Stay tuned!

Mark Curtis, Ed.D., is a nationally-known Political Analyst having covered part, or all, of every Presidential election since 1980. He is Chief Political Reporter for the five Nexstar Media TV stations serving West Virginia.

© Mark Curtis Media, LLC

Photo courtesy: Getty Images

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