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From Gameday to Election Day: The Political Athlete

Jim Bunning

It’s a trend that continues to grow and grow. Athletes who turn to politics after retiring. There is now news that former Pro Footballer Jay Riemersma is running for a position in the House of Representative in Michigan’s 2nd District.

This is not new. Athlete’s and politics go hand in hand. Every champion at every level travels to the White House after their victory. Many Senators and Congressman have been standout athletes during their playing days, several have even made it to the top office.

There have been many, but here is a list of the top players who not only succeeded in the games they played, but in the games of politics as well.

J.C. Watts

Watts was a standout Quarterback at Oklahoma and led the Sooners to back-to-back Orange Bowls in the late 70’s. After that, he played in the Canadian Football League until his retirement in 1986. In 1994, he ran for Congress and won in Oklahoma. The Republican served eight years and even got the chance to deliver his party’s rebuttal to President Bill Clinton’s State of the Union Address in 1997.

Bob Mathias

No other athlete has the resume that Mathias has. He is a two time Gold medal winner in the decathlon, in London (1948) and Helsinki (1952). If that wasn’t enough, he lead Stanford to a Rose Bowl appearance in 1952. He later went to Congress form California and served through four terms.

Jim Ryun

He was a part of the United States Track and Field teams in 1964, 1968 and 1972, winning a silver medal in Mexico City (1968). He also set numerous records in High School, including the mile record which was tops for 36 years. In Politics, he spent eleven years in the House from Kansas’ second district.

Jim Bunning

For 17 seasons, Bunning was a strong arm and retired with the second most strikeout of all time, he has since been passed by others. In 1996 he was elected into the Hall of Fame. In 1986 he entered the House and in 1999, he ran and won the Senator seat from Kentucky. He has been one of the Senate’s biggest voices with the steroid issue.

Steve Largent

One of the greatest wide receivers of all time, Largent retired tops in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089), touchdowns (100) and a record of 177 straight games with a reception. He was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995 and ranked 46th in the Sporting News, for the 100 Greatest Football Players. He became a member of the house in 1994, from Oklahoma. In 2002, he lost his position by less then 7,000 votes.

Bill Bradley

He was a three time All American and National Player of the Year in 1965. He was a member of the 1964 Gold Medal winning basketball team in Tokyo and was a two time NBA Champion with the New York Knicks. If that wasn’t enough to fill a resume, Bradley was a Senator from New Jersey for over 20 years and was a favorite to win the Democratic nomination in 2000. The Basketball Hall of Fame member ultimately lost, but has since been a vocal member of the Democratic party.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura

The Body was never WWF Champion, but did hold the Tag Team titles for some time. He was a commentator for a few Wrestlemania’s and know for his flamboyant outfits. He shocked the world in 1998 when he became the Governor of Minnesota as a member of the Reform Party. He has been known for his humorous speeches and tough words towards the opposition. He left to host his own TV show on MSNBC and continues to appear every once in a while to “bodyslam” the issues.

Jack Kemp

On of the Greatest Stars of the AFL, Kemp was a stellar Quarterback for the Bills. He led Buffalo to back-to-back AFL Championships, being named the games MVP in 1965. He was also league MVP in 1965, in the middle of the Bills three straight Eastern Division Titles. In Politics, He was a member of Congress from 1971-1989 and made a run for President in 1988, but was named to George H. W. Bush’s cabinet. He later was Bob Dole’s running mate in 1996.

Gerald Ford

Numerous President played on championship football or baseball teams, but it was Ford who anchored the Michigan Wolverines to undefeated seasons and championships in 1932 and 1933. Then with Spiro Agnew resigning, Ford became Vice President. Then that little Watergate thing happened, and Ford found himself in the nation’s highest position. He lost his bid for reelection to Jimmy Carter, but did a great service to linebackers everywhere.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

He was the youngest Mr. Olympia of all time (won it six straight years). Conan, Terminator, Commando, Predator, Total Recall, True Lies, Mr. Freeze. Married a Kennedy. The “Governator”. Enough Said.

Any Famous Athletes/Politicians from New England?

Those were some impressive names and some great athletes. However, this is New England, home of the Kennedy’s and the birthplace of the American Revolution. Surely there has to be some members of the New England community that can take the reigns if needed. So here are five athletes who should make a run for political office.

Curt Schilling

He is a strong Republican and was vital in the campaigning efforts of John McCain in 2008. He ran a tight grassroots campaign. Should he run for an office in New England, the bloody sock memories might lead to a surprise win.

Tom Brady

It doesn’t matter his stance on the issues or what party he joins. Is there anyone in New England who wouldn’t vote for him? Didn’t think so. Watch out Tom Menino, there could be a new Mayor in town.

Doc Rivers

He gives great speeches and lives on Ubuntu. He knows how to lead a group and if he stacks himself up with a great cabinet, (Hello Tom Thibodeau), Doc could become a dangerous member of the Boston political scene.

Bill Belichick

Not everyone likes him, but everyone wants him running their team. He does what it takes to win, (cough*spygate*cough), but in the end gets the job done. If he takes his dedication for football and puts it towards politics, we could have a new Nixon on our hands.

Ray Bourque

This city loves him. Enough to give him his own parade when he won a championship with another team. He has what it takes to get people behind him and gain some votes. There is one issue though, he’s Canadian.

About Teddy

Was born in Queens, NY, but moved up to New Hampshire around 12, when my interest in sports really began to boom. A huge fan of the Boston sports scene, especially the Sox, Celts, Bruins and Pats. Went to Keene State College where I majored in Journalism and went around covering the college teams. Not just a bandwagon fan... i tend to follow everything from the Draft to Championships. Love to write and look forward to bringing a fun, interesting style... hopefully...

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