June 22, 2024

Presidential March Madness: One president to rule them all

March Madness is exciting enough, but what if it were applied to other fields, such as presidents? Assistant sports editor Nathan Odom explores the possibility of Presidential March Madness and breaks down who he thinks would be the president who stands above the rest.

Photo obtained via creativecommons.org. No changes made.

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Welcome to the most unusual edition of a March Madness bracket breakdown you will find on the Internet. Last year, I delivered a similar stunt with Mascot Madness that should give you a feel for what’s coming with this bad boy.

Current president and bracketology expert Barack Obama is a pretty big basketball fan. He has “Baracketology,” where he fills out his NCAA Tournament Bracket as a televised event. He also plays a fair amount of basketball in his free time, which got me thinking: Could Barack Obama beat any other president in a game of one-on-one hoops? One radical thought led to another, an internet search led to a 44-person bracket, and a lot of free time led to a breakdown of the first and probably last Presidential March Madness.

The Guidelines

– Each president was seeded in a computer-generated bracket based on the chronological order of presidents. If a president got a first-round bye, it was sheer luck based on seeding.

– Each matchup “winner” is determined by my expert analysis of an imaginary one-on-one game of half-court basketball — first president to 11 points wins.

– The analysis to pick a winner was a balanced consideration of physical attributes and abilities, presidential successes and failures, and able-bodiedness. Sorry, Taft.

– All physical descriptions apply to presidents when they were in office. That means age, height, weight and so on and so forth.

Let’s begin.

Round of 44 — South Region

The South Region, headlined by heavy favorites George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.

32 Franklin D. Roosevelt vs 33 Harry S. Truman

Polio led to the health deterioration and eventual death of Roosevelt, who won four elections and served three full terms. He died just over a decade before the first vaccine to polio was discovered, and Truman, his successor, will fill his spot in the next round like he did when Roosevelt died in office in 1945.

25 William McKinley vs 40 Ronald Reagan

McKinley stood at 5-foot-7 and weighed around 230 pounds, not exactly ideal basketball stature. However, 69 years does a number on you, just as Ronald Reagan found out when he entered office in 1981. After stepping onto the court, half of the crowd booed him and the other half chanted “REA-GA-NO-MICS! REA-GA-NO-MICS!” McKinley used his quick wits to exploit Reagan’s lack of speed and nab a first round victory. Members of the crowd claim that Reagan would have won if his opponent was a USSR member.

41 George H. W. Bush

Grover Cleveland was the only president to serve non-consecutive terms, so he sits in the No. 22 seed because it was his first term. Also, Cleveland wasn’t totally sure Bush would be honest about the rules. “Read my lips… no new rules.” So Bush gets an unconventional first-round bye.

The East Region marks the first time John Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Bill Clinton have ever been grouped together for any reason.
The East Region marks the first time John Adams, Andrew Jackson, and Bill Clinton have ever been grouped together for any reason.

31 Herbert Hoover vs 34 Dwight D. Eisenhower

Dwight D. Eisenhower: American hero. Eisenhower led Operation Overlord (otherwise known as D-Day), was president for two terms, and played varsity football at Army West Point. Sorry, Herb. Dwight is marching through the bracket like the beaches of Normandy.

26 Theodore Roosevelt vs 39 Jimmy Carter

“Speak softly and carry a big stick” is Theodore Roosevelt talk for “I’m about to hand you a beat down without the trash talk” or something like that. Teddy and Jimmy Carter had pretty opposite presidencies. Can anyone remember anything memorable that Carter did in office? Anyone? If Carter had a student section, it would be that one guy who partied all night and slept in the gymnasium on accident. Teddy moves on.

23 Benjamin Harrison vs 42 Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton’s fan section is all women. Huh? He also convinced the ref that his two-pointer was a three-pointer during the last timeout, even though he made the shot in the paint. Also, Benjamin Harrison thought the game only went to seven points and just walked out of the gym. Clinton probably convinced him of that. Bill moves on, to the displeasure of the Congress members in attendance.

The Midwest Region provides a nice mix of favorites and potential Cinderellas. Please do not picture William Howard Taft as Cinderella.
The Midwest Region provides a nice mix of favorites and potential Cinderellas. Please do not picture William Howard Taft as Cinderella.

30 Calvin Coolidge vs 35 John F. Kennedy

Kennedy was two inches taller and about 20 pounds heavier than Coolidge. With the game tied at nine, Kennedy looked over to the bench and said “he can’t guard me” before stepping back and draining the game-winning shot. The Soviets know the feeling.

27 William Howard Taft vs 38 Gerald Ford

Taft weighed 330 pounds as president and supposedly got stuck in a bathtub once. He was the fattest of all the presidents and could make a better basketball than a basketball player. He showed up to the gym to forfeit on the way to a nearby Chinese restaurant.

22 Grover Cleveland vs 43 George W. Bush

Cleveland, who elected to only play one Bush in the first round, stands at about the same height and build as W. Bush, although he doesn’t bring near enough flavor to the court. Fans overheard Bush attempting to bring up John Wooden’s famous “It isn’t what you do, it’s how you do it” quote, but it came out “It isn’t what you do, but it’s how you say how do you do.” Bush spent millions of dollars before the game researching how to exploit a size mismatch, but got to the court and realized Cleveland was the same size. Cleveland wins comfortably.

The West Region of the of the bracket is filled with short presidencies, controversy and bracketology expert.
The West Region of the of the bracket is filled with short presidencies, controversy and bracketology expert.

29 Warren G. Harding vs 36 Lyndon B. Johnson

Johnson was an athlete during high school and Harding was basically one of the worst presidents ever. Johnson moves on.

28 Woodrow Wilson vs 37 Richard Nixon

Nixon was in the game until he paid off a spectator to go listen to Wilson’s huddle during a timeout. He was subsequently disqualified.

21 Chester Arthur vs 44 Barack Obama

If I picked Obama to lose in the first round, the Secret Service may trash this article before it could ever go up. Arthur any questions?

Round of 32 highlights

The Round of 32. The byes get into the action.
The Round of 32. The byes get into the action.

1 George Washington vs 33 Harry S. Truman

Washington stands at 6-foot-2, making him one of the tallest presidents. Truman’s poor eyesight finally caught up to him, and he’s unable to knock off the No. 1 president in the country because Washington was literally the No. 1 president for the United States.

16 Abraham Lincoln vs 17 Andrew Johnson

“Honest Abe” matches up against the first president ever to be impeached. Hm. Tough call. Abe is the tallest competitor in the tournament and imposed his will inside on Johnson to advance into the Sweet 16 for a dream matchup against George Washington.

2 John Adams vs 34 Dwight D. Eisenhower

Eisenhower stands nearly four inches taller than Adams. Despite Adams’ founding fathership, he faces too tall (no pun intended) of a task in General Eisenhower. Can this assault through the bracket be coined “Basketball Day” or B-Day? I’m going with it.

7 Andrew Jackson vs 26 Theodore Roosevelt

It looked like the run could end here for beloved Teddy Roosevelt. Andrew Jackson’s near four-inch height advantage and aggressive tactics seem insurmountable for Teddy. However, Roosevelt’s time with the Rough Riders taught him the importance of one thing: deadly accuracy. Teddy hit back-to-back-to-back three-pointers to pull off the upset.

3 Thomas Jefferson vs 35 John F. Kennedy

The Declaration of Independence against the averted Cuban Missile Crisis. Perfect colonial hair against perfect 1960s looks. Jefferson and Kennedy trade buckets until Jefferson puts Kennedy on a poster after a devastating spin move, yelling “TAKETH THAT YOU SLICK-HAIRED REDCOAT!” and Kennedy never recovers.

The Sweet 16

The Sweet 16 is here, and with it, the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln showdown we all deserve.
The Sweet 16 is here, and with it, the George Washington and Abraham Lincoln showdown we all deserve.

1 George Washington vs 16 Abraham Lincoln

It’s a good thing basketball doesn’t involve lying, or this game wouldn’t be much to watch. However, watching these two red-blooded American heroes go at it in the paint would be worth the price of admission (which, courtesy of America, is FREEDOM). After George got to 10 points by chopping away low on the block, Abraham Lincoln hit a post fade-away to tie things up. Then, as George backed down Lincoln for a potential game-winning shot, Lincoln poked away the ball to gain possession. In a move known as “The Emancipation Proclamation 2.0,” Lincoln freed Washington from the ground with a nasty crossover to clear a lane to the bucket… and the Elite Eight.

25 William McKinley vs 41 George H.W. Bush

How is Bush Sr. still here? Probably because he keeps getting favorably match-ups like McKinley, whose 5-foot-7, 230-pound frame doesn’t do him any favors on the court. Bush still has it at age 74 and becomes the oldest Cinderella story ever. Seriously, he’s older than Walt Disney’s Cinderella film (which was released in 1950) by over 25 years. You are our Cinder-fella, George.

26 Theodore Roosevelt vs 12 Bill Clinton

In a “justice delivered” moment for the United States, Roosevelt skunked Clinton by a score of 11-0. When asked post-game about his performance, Clinton only replied “It depends on what the meaning of the word ‘his’ is.”

Elite Eight

The Presidential Elite Eight pits some household names against each other.
The Presidential Elite Eight pits some household names against each other.

16 Abraham Lincoln vs 41 George H.W. Bush

Mercifully, “Cinderfella” Bush’s time has come. His two games have worn him out, and he stands no match against high-flying Honest Abe. Some begin to doubt Abe’s kindness after the merciless beating he puts on H.W.

36 Lyndon B. Johnson vs 44 Barack Obama

Would Obama have predicted he would make the Elite Eight if he had to do a bracketology of this bracket? Probably not, but only because he’s pretty humble. I’m giving him the edge on basketball practice, although he’s a busy man. So, on to the Final Four, President Obama. (I hope the Secret Service are still reading.)

34 Dwight D. Eisenhower vs 26 Theodore Roosevelt

The B-Day train continues to roll on for Eisenhower. However, I can’t imagine he was expecting THE Theodore Roosevelt in the Elite Eight. Two war veterans with impeccable leading skills battling for supremacy. Roosevelt used Eisenhower’s aggressive, in-your-face tactics against him to draw a charge in a tie game. Then, Teddy spun down the lane like he spun into foreign policy and kissed the game-winner off the glass to set up a Final Four showdown with Thomas Jefferson.

Final Four

Abe Lincoln, Barack Obama, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson survive and advance.
Abe Lincoln, Barack Obama, Teddy Roosevelt, and Thomas Jefferson survive and advance.

16 Abraham Lincoln vs 44 Barack Obama

Honest Abe vs Shoot the Rock Barack. Abe had size and length, while Obama had speed and outside shooting ability. After a scoring drought, both went back to basics. Obama created separation to get a few open jumpers, while Lincoln worked the post to keep pace. The game was tied at eight when Obama nailed a step-back jumper to pull within a point of winning. Lincoln dribbled around the three-point line, and Obama gave him some cushion, so Abe decided to shoot for the win… and banked it in. The Secret Service probably stopped reading a while ago.

26 Theodore Roosevelt vs 3 Thomas Jefferson

In what will forever be known as the “Mount Rushmore Showdown,” the undersized Roosevelt had to be creative to defeat a red-hot Jefferson. Jefferson brutalized Roosevelt inside — the rough six-inch height difference made him almost impossible to stop. Then, Teddy went to the Michael Jordan. With his tongue out and the ball palmed in his hand, Teddy went up-and-under to go up 10-9, needing a defensive stop to try and seal the victory. He complimented Jefferson’s hairdo, creating confusion and a turnover, then nailed an easy jumper to meet Abe in the championship.

Championship Game

16 Abraham Lincoln vs 26 Theodore Roosevelt

Although he was out-sized yet again, Roosevelt used a slick array of crossovers and ball-handling moves to keep Lincoln on his heels. Lincoln kept pace with Teddy by using the same strategy as Jefferson — owning the paint. Both presidents went back-and-forth with shots until a 10-10 tie gave Roosevelt the chance to pull off a David and Goliath type upset. Roosevelt stunned Lincoln by turning his back to the basket from 15 feet out. Then, in a Kobe-like move, Teddy spun and fired a looping fade-away, nailing it for the crown and the glory. Abraham Lincoln was, once again, eliminated with one final shot.

Special thanks to Emily Caylor, Robert Hughes, Dalton King, Jake Nichols, Morgan Sanchez, and Ben Woody for assisting in research

Featured image courtesy of U.S. Department of the Interior

Edited by David Bradford

Nathan is a junior at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville. He spends most of his free time eating meaningless foods and watching sports. If you wish to contact Nathan, you can email him at wodom3@vols.utk.edu or find him on Twitter, @NathanOdom11.