Journalist Chris Cillizza discusses the convergence of Presidents, politics and sports in American history with Nestor and the stories behind his new book: “Power Players: Sports, Politics and the American Presidency.”
sports, running, larry hogan, maryland, trump, president, win, connecticut, politics, played, yankees, years, book, biden, elected, baseball, governor, wes moore, orioles, great
Nestor Aparicio 00:00
What about W en s t Towson, Baltimore and Baltimore positive we are positively taking the Maryland crabcake tour back out on the road. Preakness in town this month. Perfect to get back to State Fair will be Gainesville next Friday with CFG bank president Bill widow talking about the new arena all the brought to you by the Maryland lottery I’ll be giving away some instant lottery scratch offs to throw back and it’s the 50th anniversary Be on the lookout for that homerun Riches on the 50th homerun for the Orioles as well as our friends at window nation. 866 90 nation I can’t wait to have this guy on. My wife and I ran off to Hawaii and blew off big stars of the media circuit. But he sent me a book two of my favorite things, politics and sports together all in the same place. I’ve watched them on CNN for years a pleasure to have a crystal Lizza on the program for the first time. Third, I apologize man, I was in like Cana Polly or Kapalua or some crazy place. But I’m so glad that we finally made this happen. What a concept for a book power players in the American presidency through
Yeah, thank you. Thank you for having me. Yeah, it’s I always say when people ask what the idea of the book was, I always say it’s selfish. I once I gave up my dream of being in the NBA at about age 14, I realized I had to do something else with my life. So I knew I wanted to go into journalism. I just didn’t know what kind and I always assumed sports because that was what I was most passionate about. But I wound up going down a different route politics, but I kept sort of the sports fires burning throughout all that time. I always sort of followed for it sports really closely, was really into it. And so when my editor came to me and said, hey, you know, do you want to read a book, I thought oh, Jesus is daunting, but I wanted to do something that I knew I could be passionate about. So I we we look in that heart in that sports and politics space, and wound up coming up with you know, what is the the elevator pitch for the book is effectively the sports presidents played loved in spectated. And what it tells us about who they are and how they govern. That’s, that’s sort of the lens that we sought to look through. Throughout the throughout the book, and I hope did so successfully.
Nestor Aparicio 02:01
It hasn’t been hard in our lifetime, right? To find that Obama like basketball, Trump like golf. You know, Bush love baseball, you know, so like, and, and how that relates to getting elected, maybe to some degree and playing along and Richard Nixon love baseball, you know, all of these years. Sport, and I’m a man of competition. I did this at Yale, I did that, you know, all of that went into your manhood to make you qualified, right? A little bit?
Yes, absolutely. Look, I mean, I always trace back the roots of sports and politics to Teddy Roosevelt. You know, Teddy Roosevelt believed in sports, because he wanted to train particularly football, because he wanted to train young men for war. Literally, he came out and said it. So it’s always been sort of linked into our culture, I would say, I think, to your point, sports is a common language a lot of people speak. Politicians need to find ways to reach the average person where they are right. They need to find ways to identify with them, empathize with them understand their hopes, their dreams, their fears, their ambitions, all that stuff. Sports is a way to do that. You mentioned Nixon. So Nixon is super awkward as a person, right? He is not. He’s not socially skilled. He’s a little bit of a loner, but he uses sports just being able to sort of talk about the Well, hey, do you see how the Orioles did or you know, what do you think of the elite this year, he uses that stuff to be able to relate to people in a way he couldn’t otherwise. And I think without sports, Richard Nixon probably doesn’t want to beat President United States. Because from a purely personality and charisma standpoint, he’s very much lagging behind other politicians, but he uses it in ways to associate and get himself closer with people that he would never have been able to do otherwise.
Nestor Aparicio 03:55
Well, it’s funny you say that because I think there’s a really famous debate in black and white and, you know, Jack Kennedy I in in thinking about your book, and like my journalism, and I’m the exact opposite, dude, I’ve done sports radio here for 31 years, right since before the Ravens existed. How do we get Camden Yards built? Oh my god, we lost the Colts, all of that stuff. I’ve been a part of all of that. And I’ve turned the politics since Trump got elected in my city was on fire and two of our mayor’s have gone to jail, like all of these issues that we’ve had here, that it really is sort of interrelated. When you see Wes Moore get elected here, and the first thing he’s doing is running around with Little John Angelos and, and the shotty got his stadium deal done with Hogan before Hogan left. So you know, these are the billionaires. These are the guys that these are the guys that pay Lamar Jackson $260 million, and we pony up 600 million more dollars to keep the stadiums running and keep we’re going hey, we lost the bullets and we lost the Colts. We still have all of that going on. We don’t have a lease for our baseball team here and the governor Is, is moving to the new governor, the non-politician governor who might be president one day, I love West. But the one of the first things he’s doing is running around on opening day with John Angelo saying, We can’t lose the baseball team on my watch. I’m the governor, that’ll be on my ass.
Yeah, look, I think that politicians understand that sports is something that people feel very passionately about. And a lot more people feel more passionately about sports than do about politics. Look, as I can tell you from my own experience, there has been lots and lots of people who feel very passionately about politics, right? But people feel even more passionately about sports, and more of them do so. So I think somebody asked me recently, do you think someone could get elected president and I would put this down to elected governor is probably in the same boat. Do you think they can get elected if they had no knowledge of or interest in sports? And I think the answer to that is no. I think you would really struggle if you I mean, I always think back to John Kerry in 2004, calling Lambeau Field Lambert field, and that being a big deal, because it was, you know, some, for some people it was a stand in for, well, he doesn’t get sports, he doesn’t get American culture. And so I really do think there’s politicians understand that, even if you can’t, even if you don’t really care, you have to fake it. Some of our best. Most well regarded presidents Ronald Reagan, for example, was a great Faker of love in sports. He didn’t really care about sports, beyond Notre Dame football because he had played Georgia gip in a movie about Notre Dame football. So he kind of cared about Notre Dame football, but only a little bit. He didn’t really watch sports on TV. He wasn’t a follower of it. But what did Reagan do? Reagan was the first president to formalize bringing championship teams after they won the Super Bowl the NBA championship to the White House, because he understood that being associated with winners, and elite athletes was a good thing for President of the United States. So I think that you got to be able to fake it. Even if you don’t actually care. Not every president is going to be Nixon or Bill Clinton, who’s like a big fan, right, who are naturally fans of a sport. But I think you have to be able to at least speak that language. Or I think you would really, really struggle because I think people would view you as at a touch whether that’s fair or unfair. I think that’s the nature of how sports works in our society. Now,
Nestor Aparicio 07:25
chrysalis is here. He’s written a book power player sports politics in the American presidency, we waited to have him on. So you know, I’m so excited to have you on and you’re a couple of weeks later than you want it to be, or I wanted you to be. And I started thinking like, I found this picture of Louis Aparicio with JFK in 1962, at the All Star game, and Sam usuals, next to him. And then I found old Oriole pictures from the same era with JFK. So we’re going back, you know, for 60 years now, right? I’m thinking to myself, I’ve been in sports radio 30 years, and I was going to tell the story lesson. But I ran into Bill Clinton, I rubbed elbows with him going to the bathroom in the media level in 94, or five, six opening day, he’s in Baltimore, there’s no nationals. And he’s here throwing out the first pitch. And I, I’ve been invited to the White House twice in my life, when the Ravens won the Super Bowl, right, Obama and Bush and have a picture of Bush, no picture with Obama, they throw us out on the lawn. Back in the day. They knew where to put journalists. But you know, my sport connection to presidents is I’ve covered sports, and I’ve gotten to meet several of them, because they want to be up on sports. And I’m a journalist, and because they wanted the teams at the White House and whatever. And I think about like, Obama and basketball and Trump and golf, and even in the modern era, there really is no separation of this. I mean, researching this with your publisher and doing it, how much did you learn? I mean, I’ve just Googled a couple of things. And I’m like, Oh, look at that. Look at that. Yeah, I’m sure this was a hell of a cool project for you
was yeah, it was. Yeah, that’s exactly right. I mean, again, selfish. I wanted to know more about it. It was a question I wondered about, I knew some stuff like, obviously, like, before I started the book I knew about George W. Bush’s first picks in the 2001 World Series, and the Diamondbacks and the Yankees, he comes out after September 11. He throws a strike. It’s like I knew some of the big moments where sports and politics fused, but there were tons of stuff that I didn’t know anything about, like mixing. I keep coming back to Nixon, because I’m fascinated by him. But Nixon bold, which is really interesting. So back then, in the late 60s, early 70s, bowling was a big deal in this country. The first person to be sponsored by a company, first athlete to be sponsored by a company was a bowler, which is so random golfer really? Yes, yes, Bowler. So had bowling alleys put into the White House just to two lanes. And he would go this is by his own admission, he told the White House press coordinates I found that I was totally fascinated by it. He would go at night, after 10 o’clock. He would go in by his own admission would roll between With seven and 12 games, he would bowl that much, which to me, it’s crazy that he would get that involved in bowling but he did. He said it calms him down. He said, he enjoyed it. He talked to the press corps about it. He bragged about his bowling score. He said that he shot a 229, which he said included seven strikes, including four in a row. So like that I didn’t know I didn’t know. Donald Trump played squash in college of all things. So Donald Trump, he was a pretty good athlete in high school, he played baseball primarily. But he goes to Fordham for one year, and he plays squash. I talked to his biographer, a guy named Mark Fisher, who I used to work with at the Washington Post. And Fisher said that Trump was not a great squash player, not because he wasn’t a good athlete, he is a pretty good athlete. But because he had he lacked the patience for the sport. So he just wasn’t good at playing the subtleties of squash sort of playing a couple couple shots ahead and thinking through like, what was his opponent doing and what could he do, he would just get frustrated and just try to bash the ball by them and loose loose points, which I thought was almost too on the nose as relates to sort of Trump’s approach to politics, sort of bash through everyone and throw the subtlety out the window. So there was a ton of stuff like that I learned a bunch of on Eisenhower and his relationship with Augusta his relationship with learning Arnold Palmer. Just stuff I knew a little bit about but didn’t know enough about about JFK and that how good a golfer he was and how they hid the fact that he was a really good golfer, because he had been very critical of Eisenhower for how much Eisenhower played golf. And they didn’t want him to look like a hypocrite. They also didn’t want him to look like an elitist because he he played the game. You know, he was from a patrician family. His father was an ambassador, there were taught that his father had sort of bought him to have the House and the Senate seats, and they didn’t want him playing in a what a game at that point at least was considered an elitist game. So they really downplayed how much he played golf or at least how much he played it publicly and played up the tackle football because they viewed football as a more average Joe game. So
Nestor Aparicio 12:05
yes, the Kennedy family game every year on Thanksgiving,
everyone we all know what’s what’s remarkable is the way that baseball
Nestor Aparicio 12:13
in the NFL over the last 60 years i i owe it to you as a longtime sports guy without Thanksgiving, the NFL zone Thanksgiving and Christmas and that that’s changed everything for them.
Absolutely. And the Kennedy thing was all perception. He you know, his back was so bad that for much of his life, he couldn’t even play in those pickup touch football games, he could barely move around. But the idea that we all have in our head of Kennedy, if you’re of a certain age, is them playing football at hyannisport right then playing at the compound at the Kennedy compound. In fact, he was a very mediocre football player he played for one year at at Harvard, but he was a really good golfer but of course no one really knows that because they made it their business to make sure people didn’t know that
Nestor Aparicio 12:58
chrysalis has made it his business to write a book about power player sports politics and the American president. Hey, man, what’s going on man? Let’s let what are your team’s let’s start with that because you’re right this you have to have tears like the Bruins fans lately or maybe some shears like our Orioles fans lately.
So I grew up Yankees 70 Sixers, I grew up in Connecticut Yankees 70 Sixers mostly and at the time, we had the Hartford Whalers which was the only pro sports team in Connecticut they moved to Carolina hearing
Nestor Aparicio 13:33
brass Bonanza in my heart right totally bad
bad bad. Yeah, it’s great song. We still we have some great we have Ron Francis Kevin Dineen and brass bonanza. Um, so I grew up that way. I have lived in Washington now for longer than I lived in Connecticut so and with my kids and the Nationals coming we are nationals fans, I think I’m probably a national fan more than anything else. I root for the wizards but they’ve been so bad that it doesn’t really you know, compute. I’m still a Giants fan New York Giants fan leftover from my years of being in Connecticut but so mostly and this is depressing because this is a team unlike the Orioles This is a team that is not on the on the upswing. This is a team mired deep in mediocrity. I’m mostly a national fan. Like if I if I watch sports, I’m mostly watching nationals games, which is a little bit depressing these days.
Nestor Aparicio 14:28
Well, good for you. You had a parade and you know and and one day Peter will pay the owner Peter will pay the bill for all the TV he’s stolen the last 12 years. That’s I’ve written I’ve written the Peter principles about that. Speaking of passion projects. My last name is Aparicio and I’ve been mired here for 30 years watching this right. So you know, I would say from a sports standpoint, everything sort of a little bit cyclical, but Connecticut’s Yeah, not to insult you or your people. It’s sort of the era of sports. You can do whatever you want, right. You can adopt anything you want. When you or Connecticut, right? Who up
so I grew up in like South Central Connecticut. And it’s it was basically split almost evenly between Red Sox and Yankees fans. There were a few Mets fans in there, but not really. And yeah, you can sort of route for your route for the Jets you want to route from the Giants. You can route for either one I, most of the people I grew up with were Giants fans. But you know, this was, it’s weird to think about, but this was, you know, let’s see, I’m 47. So this is 35 years ago, football was not as dominant than as it is now. I mean, it was a much bigger deal whether you’re rooting for the Yankees or the Red Sox, where I grew up then if you’re rooting for the Giants or the Patriots or the Jets. There was a brief time Bob Kraft used Connecticut. He tried to leverage Connecticut said he was going to move the patriots to Connecticut we threw all this money at him so to speak if building stadiums said we’re going to build right they were coming to Hartford exactly right. And then he just used that to leverage more money out of Foxborough so that was depressing so that we I definitely did not and still do not root for the Patriots. For that reason. But yeah, it’s funny when I think back because I remember watching every Yankee game on WpX it was Bill White doing color doing the play by play and Phil resumo doing the commentary, which was great, a great booth to grow up with the Yankees at the time were horrendous. One of the leading memories of my childhood is Andy Hawkins pitched a no hitter and the Yankees lost three nothing. So I mean, they had Don Mattingly who I worship. They had Dave Winfield
Nestor Aparicio 16:32
there during the Edward Snowden, Don Mattingly Exactly.
He was a big star and Winfield was a big star, but they were not very good sort of mid 80s was my wheelhouse for the Yankees. So everyone always says angry Tablo, George Yes. Everyone says like, oh, Yankee fan front runner. I’m like, well, they were not good. When I was a young fan, I should have stuck with them. Because obviously, they got good again. But by then I had moved here and was sort of rooting for the nationals. But yeah, that’s my journey. I mean, I I’ve always loved sports. It’s always been a thing I’ve been passionate about. And I think it’s really it was a really cool experience to not just what I didn’t want to do with the book was just write like, partisan political book. There’s enough of those out there. I just felt like, you know, I personally was worn out from all the partisanship, I’d spent the last five years at CNN covering Trump. And so I wanted to write a book that was about politics. It’s about American presidents. Obviously, it’s about politics, but not political and not polarizing. And so sports was a really great way to get into that. Because even people who don’t want to talk to you about like the Obama presidency, will talk to you about Obama’s, you know, the pickup games they played and why he’s interested in basketball and whether he’s good or not. And that got me into talk to a lot of people that I think probably wouldn’t have talked to me if I was doing a purely political book.
Nestor Aparicio 17:55
chrysalis is here. We have not stuck to sports too much in this segment. The book is power player sports politics in the American presidency. And enough of bipartisanship right there on the front page, including the rathlin ring with the rasslin. President. Anything you have to say about the current state of the state, and I’ll give you a couple minutes to stretch out because I do love. I’d love to listen. And this is my cheap shot for you. If you want to see some real baseball as you can with the Baltimore get your crabcake I know, we’re nearby, but I know it. Yeah. But But onto the political scene. We have a really interesting landscape here in Maryland. On the Democratic side, anybody listens to me knows I had no use for Trump or any of the lies already. I’m a media member, all of that stuff. But we have a democratic state. Now that’s really been very purple. And quite frankly, was run red right out of the red line through my city eight years ago. It’s a fascinating time in Maryland, and certainly for Westmore.
Yeah, what’s more is, so I think the last two governors of Maryland have been very interesting. So Larry Hogan is a guy without sort of a party at this point. You know, I think I think in the Republican Party of 20 years ago, Larry Hogan is a really interesting voice. Right? He’s a guy who’s had success in water. You know, you we can debate Maryland or Massachusetts, which is the most democratic state but it’s probably one of the two of those two elected Republican governor reelect the Republican governor, like Larry Hogan would have a really cool and interesting story to tell on the national level 20 years ago in the Republican Party. The problem is it’s not 20 or 30 years ago in the Republican Party. It’s today and I think he very much you know, I think him not running for president 2024 is just a bowing to reality, right? There’s just no lane for someone like him a moderate Republican,
Nestor Aparicio 19:41
who is no lane here for you right later. Like I had last been on two weeks ago on the crabcakes. We’re up in Harford County. I mean, just no Lane unless you want to wrap yourself in a Trump flag or Red Hat and, and I would, I mean, Ehrlich went that direction, big time and he and I had some conversations about that after I endorsed him 20 years ago, which is a political embarrassment to me, quite frankly, all these years later, but at least they haven’t signed up for it. But it doesn’t make him a viable candidate. I don’t know if it makes him a viable candidate. And by the way, I should bring this up with you since you have a little political book. Cal Ripken ‘s names been brought up with Senator I
saw that I saw that they mentioned Cal is I think, look, I think if you’re Republican in Maryland, you’re not in a great place. So you basically have Larry Hogan and Cal Ripken. So it seems those two things happen. As soon as Ben Cardin announced he was retiring. They went to those two guys and said, Would you consider running pull said no, which by the way, is the smartest thing both of them could have done? I don’t think Larry Hogan could win a Senate race. In in Maryland, federal races are very different. There’s a reason that Maryland has had a Republican governor Massachusetts has had a Republican governor, Kansas and Oklahoma have had Democratic governors because you can get elected in a state race because you don’t have to answer for the National Party in a federal race like a Senate race you have to answer for the National Party, it becomes so much more difficult. We’ve seen popular governor after popular governor just happened in Montana a few years ago, popular Democratic governor runs for Senate loses overwhelmingly. It just doesn’t work. So smart decision by Larry Hogan. And if you’re Cowell there’s absolutely no reason to run for office. None unless unless you have a burning desire that’s always been there to run, which I don’t think he does. Well,
Nestor Aparicio 21:22
like the way Herschel Walker did as an example.
Yeah, I don’t know about that.
Nestor Aparicio 21:28
We wrote the book on sports and politics and why they’re running, you know, literally Klan candidate clown clown candidates, and we got a former football football coach sitting in DC down the street from you. Right, running. Thanks.
It’s, I would I, it’s interesting to me, I would be interested to give Herschel Walker a lie detector test and ask him if he could do it over again, if he would run. I genuinely am skeptical he would, because I don’t think that was an experience that he particularly enjoyed. And he was not made to be a candidate. Anyone who watched that that race knew this is a guy who’s uncomfortable on the campaign trail, not a great public speaker, all these things, but he was Herschel Walker. So he won the primary because he’s a legend in Georgia. And then, you know, he came relatively close to winning the general election anyway, back to Maryland. Yeah, Wes Moore is a really interesting guy. I mean, I’ve known him for a while he’s been kicking around politics for a while prior to running for governor. I think he is someone who is going to be mentioned in 2028. If Biden wins, or loses, he is someone who is going to be mentioned in 2028. As a national candidate, I think he will go down the road of at least exploring that right, like talking to people nationally, going to Iowa going to New Hampshire. He’ll be doing that right around the time that you. This is presuming he gets reelected in 2026. To a second term, it’s who knows? It’s Maryland. I think the Democrat has a huge advantage. I guess he could get primary and I don’t think it’s likely an incumbent Democratic governor is gonna lose a primary and Maryland. But I do think was more of someone who we will hear of in the sort of Pete Buttigieg. Kamala Harris conversations about 2028. As people start looking beyond Biden, I think you’re already seeing some of that now, where people are saying, Okay, well, the 2024 race is going to be Biden versus Trump. But what about who’s the fresh face on the Republican side? Who’s the fresh face on the Democratic side? I think Wes Moore is in that space. And that’s a very good place to be. Now, some of that depends on how he governs right? If he is viewed as a terrible governor, then you lose some of the luster of running for president. But if he has a good first term, if he’s reelected by a decent margin in 2026, I can see that being a launching pad for a presidential race because unlike Larry Hogan, West Morris politics fit within the current iteration of the Democratic Party.
Nestor Aparicio 23:50
What are the Democrats doing run in Biden? And what are the Republicans doing run and Trump? Um, yeah, there’s sort of a little bit of insanity to both of these things. And I’m a guy that, you know, I voted for Biden, I’m good with it, but I don’t need 18 year old guys running the country, you know?
Yeah. So I think with Trump, it’s a little bit easier in that they just can’t stop it. You know, it’s not as though the establishment has sort of bequeath Donald Trump the the the nominee, I think they’ve just realized that it’s very unlikely they’re going to stop him. So some of them at least are getting on board. It’s why you see some of these members of Congress endorsing him now because it’s like, Well, if he’s gonna win, I might as well beyond now and maybe get something in the administration as opposed to not with Biden. And at least in part, it’s a lack of an alternative. So the two people running against him are Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and that sort of note obviously a name people know the the. Related to the cut he is John Kennedy is well, let’s see. RFK is his dad. So he’s that he and John are obviously he’s his nephew, I call I can’t think of a word.
Nestor Aparicio 25:01
That’s fine. I mean, you’re trying to piece together all sorts of things for us. So he’s
he’s an anti Vaxxer. And I think has become known as that nationally. And then Marianne Williamson who ran in in 2022. Really no great regard. You know, Gavin Newsom isn’t running, Wes Moore isn’t running. Kamala Harris isn’t running Pete Buttigieg isn’t running. And so I think when it’s for Biden, let’s look at the alternatives. He was successful in keeping other people out of the race who would be potentially damaging to him. So yeah, I do even though every poll suggests people don’t want this race. If I think that we are getting Biden versus Trump in 2024. Could Trump lose the primary yet? Sure. Absolutely. He’s very unpredictable, things could go wrong for him. At the same time, I feel like the support he has is very much locked in is unlikely to move all that much. It hasn’t moved in all these years. I don’t think it’s likely I don’t know what you could find out about Donald Trump if you were supporting him, what you could find out about him now that would make you say like, oh, wow, actually, let me reconsider my past support. So I’m skeptical that anyone other than Trump wins the Republican primary and I think that Biden will definitely win the Democratic primary and then in the general election, I think Democrats are a little too optimistic that they’re going to win. Easily. I think Trump is has a very decent chance of of winning the general election and becoming president again.
Nestor Aparicio 26:32
He’s chrysalis. I gotta let him go. He’s got a book. You should go check it out. Maybe for Father’s Day gift. Mother’s How are players sports politics in the American presidency. crabcake offers open we’re 40 miles apart. I’m gonna come see some baseball up here. We have the best player in the NFL just ask the payroll. And you might get a new owner down there and it might bring the football relevance back but really a pleasure have watched it for years. Pleasure to have you on great to make your claims. Thanks
for Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Nestor Aparicio 27:02
You got a crystal So joining us here we’re gonna be doing the Maryland crabcake towards state fair on Friday, we got Preakness going on. We got all sorts of things all of it brought to you by the Maryland lottery in conjunction with our friends at window nation. I am Nestor we are wn st am 1570, Towson Baltimore. And we never stop talking Baltimore positive