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Gerald Ford, Best Athlete/President Dies by Stan Silliman


Silliman on Sports
By Stan Silliman

      Gerald Ford passes on. He was, without doubt the best athlete to ever serve as President. You notice I was very careful to not say “elected” because Jerry, as a politician, elevated the term “un-elected” to new heights. He was an unelected vice-president, taking office after Spiro Agnew spiraled out of control and soon after he became an unelected president when Richard Nixon tripped over a Watergate.

    Here are a few trivia items about Jerry:

    Did you know what Richard Nixon said the first time he bumped into Gerald Ford?
    “Pardon me.”

    Gerald Ford was very fond of saying “I’m a Ford, not a Lincoln.” A Ford - not a Lincoln? So we guess that means he wasn’t all that into freeing the slaves, just one old droopy-jowled white guy.

    Ford was indeed an outstanding athlete, having played center on two national championship teams at Michigan. So here’s a paradox. If he were indeed the best athlete to ever be in the oval office how can it be Gerald was also our clumsiest president?  By clumsy, we mean perceived as falling-down, tripping-over-shoes-pratfall-waiting-to-happen clumsy. The clumsiness may have been overblown but the perception was such that Chevy Chase made a career impersonating Gerald Ford on Saturday Night Live. Chase did so many skits and so many pratfalls he injured his back. Hold on, that’s not the funny part. The funny ironic thing about Chevy Chase playing a klutzy president is that Chevy’s bad back resulted in his getting hooked on pain pills and then… drying out at the Betty Ford Clinic.

    Back to Jerry, the athlete. Ford played center on the Wolverine team and after graduating turned down an offer from the Lions to play in the NFL. After Ford went into office, a company in Michigan started making souvenir Michigan football helmets from the 30’s era, hoping they would catch on. They never did, really, until our best athlete ever to hold the office, naturally, took up golf.

   In case you don’t remember, Ford wasn’t a bad golfer, just he was not always accurate. In a few cases Gerald Ford appeared at a pro-am event and sprayed the ball. In those same few cases people lining the fairway got hit with the miss-hit golf ball. That’s how stories started that it was dangerous to be anywhere near the hole when Gerald Ford was playing. We’re kidding, of course, but Bob Hope once quipped the only safe place to be when Ford was swinging… was on the tee. And he didn’t mean the tee box, he meant the tee. Hope was also the one who said “To find Jerry on a golf course – just follow the wounded.” Jokes liked that helped the little helmet company in Michigan to finally cash in. To be safe watching a golf event featuring President Ford, what did you need – a helmet? Hellooo??
Gerald Ford, Best Athlete/President Dies by Stan Silliman
    The greatest irony, we think, is that a person can be a top notch athlete at Michigan and then a boxing and football coach at Yale and then become our most physically fit president where he swims, skis, golfs, plays tennis and then, one little slip, he’s portrayed as a klutz. One errant golf ball which heads where gallery members shouldn’t be standing, he’s perceived as a wild golfer. Total shame, we think, for a guy who dedicated so many years to physical conditioning, to have a few physical gaffs become his trademark. Call it happenstance, extreme happenstance, almost as much happenstance as someone who never even ran for Vice-President, never even being elected to either office ending up being a President.   

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