|Game Changer: Barack Obama’s Implementation of Sports Strategies on the Campaign Trail and in the White House
by Scott D'Amico,
University of Central Oklahoma
During a town hall meeting in Nashua, New Hampshire in February 2010, President Barack Obama provided a metaphor to describe the political climate surrounding his signature piece of legislation, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which was awaiting a contentious vote in the House of Representatives. Obama stated, “We’ve had to go into overtime, but now we’re in the red zone . . . We’ve got to punch it through” (Henderson par. 4). As Sports Illustrated columnist Phil Taylor observed, “There are times when the commander in chief sounds more like a Kansas City Chief, which makes him no different from the rest of us . . . If you want to measure the depth of our obsession with the athletic, just listen to the way our conversations are laced with sports speak” (Taylor par. 1). Progressively, politics and sports in the United States have become intertwined.
While not a prerequisite for political success, the ability to connect with constituents in an increasingly sports obsessed society is a valuable tool for those occupying or seeking political office. Conversely, for those politicians lacking sports savvy, sports related gaffes can prove costly. There has been no politician more deftly able to navigate these treacherous waters than Obama. As both a candidate and as a president, he has effectively appealed and communicated to his prospective voters and constituents through sports. This paper examines this phenomenon with a focus on three specific areas: Obama’s mastery of sports to garner electoral support throughout the 2008 presidential election, his usage of sports related metaphors to convey policy messages, and his utilization of sporting events to connect with the electorate.