The Strenuous Life: Theodore Roosevelt and the Making of the American Athlete
Baseball is mollycoddle. Baseball is hardly a man’s game. Not the words but the sentiment expressed by President Teddy Roosevelt, undoubtedly to the consternation of the population in general. On the cusp of the twentieth century, with his persistent keep-fit activity he became a role model to America, starting point for the widespread pursuit of exercise an athletic competition, especially for youth. This Strenuous Life introduces a further side of a President already celebrated for skill as a soldier and statesman. It’s a wonderful tale of the asthmatic boy, encouraged by his father to be a sportsman, emphasizing effort to be more important than success on the field or the tennis court.
Boxing, wrestling, football and, above all tennis, appealed to Roosevelt. His official meetings with high-power colleagues were followed frequently by a few sets of tennis then further grueling physical activity as the mood took him. He was keener than participants like the French Ambassador who pleaded after a grueling afternoon of tennis, jogging and medicine ball, “If you don’t mind, Mr. President, I’d like to lie down and die.’
Whether or not one is a Teddy Roosevelt admirer or a sports junkie, the book’s detail and humor are captivating. The founding and expansion of organizations like the NCAA, and the PSAL, the men like Luther Gulick and Edward Payson Weston who gained their President’s favor, the inclusion of African Americans and women, demonstrate a revealing history of Americana.
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