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We can only hope Barack Obama's economic and health care plans are better than his bowling skills.

During his seven-frame outing last year with television cameras rolling, Obama displayed a bowling technique reminiscent of someone leaning down to feed a dog. Obama, in his size-12 shoes, bowled a 37. I hope the White House bowling alley has bumper lanes.

Despite the inability to bowl his age, Obama is athletically gifted. He was a star player on Occidental College's basketball team, and the left-hander recently played with North Carolina All-American Tyler Hansbrough. Obama said he wants to replace the White House bowling alley with a basketball court. His push for a playoff in college football endeared him to SEC fans.

Presidents and sports are inextricably linked. John Sayle Watterson, in his wonderful book, "The Games Presidents Play: Sports and the Presidency," wrote that "increasingly, sports have defined the presidency."

Perhaps an interest in sports helps craft a tough image or allows presidents to relate to the common citizen, or maybe the competitive nature of politics lends itself to appreciating a different kind of competition. Our presidents are usually athletic and almost always intrigued by the sports we play. That trend will continue when Obama takes the oath of office today.

Gerald Ford, a standout offensive lineman at the University of Michigan who spurned pro football offers, probably has been our most athletic president. (Ironically, he was portrayed by Chevy Chase on "Saturday Night Live" as a klutz who fell off ladders.)

Teddy Roosevelt played tennis on the White House lawn, the first George Bush was a Yale baseball captain and our last president, George W. Bush, is a former managing general partner of the Texas Rangers and bruised his face mountain biking. One of the younger Bush's most memorable sporting moments during his presidency was throwing out the first pitch of Game 3 in the 2001 World Series, a perfect strike. It was a rare time to smile in the aftermath of 9/11.

Richard Nixon played linebacker at tiny Whittier College and loved to bowl. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Warren Harding and Bill Clinton were among the golf enthusiasts. John F. Kennedy and his family played touch football games in front of the White House, and Jimmy Carter was known for a love of softball. Lyndon B. Johnson attempted to golf even though he reportedly shot in the 300s.

George Washington, as we all know, was very involved with ultimate fighting.

Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson actually made an impact on college football, forcing the sport to use helmets and pads after football fatalities rose.

And that brings us to Obama and his desire for a playoff. Could he, like Roosevelt and Wilson before him, change college football? He has repeatedly said he wants college football to adopt a playoff system, generating discussions among coaches across the country.

"I think he ought to call us so the head coaches can figure out how to get the price of gas down," Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino, who is against playoffs, cracked last season.

But South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, a proponent of the playoff system, believes in our new president.

"We have playoffs in every sport in the world, I think, except for (major) college football," Spurrier said. "Like I always say, how can we be right and everybody else be wrong? I just think with the president pushing it, something certainly could happen."

Imagine a 3-point-shooting president with a basketball court in his house who started a four-team college football playoff. It could happen. And it would make us forget he bowled a 37.

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