That highly anticipated first sip of morning coffee had just crossed my lips when I involuntarily spewed it out Danny Thomas style, in what the vaudevillians used to call a “spit take.” The action was not for comic effect, but out of fear. A face had suddenly appeared, staring in at me from outside the kitchen window. To make matters worse, it was the
maniacally grinning face of Travis Redfish.
I sensed in an instant that it was the grin of a man with a scheme. A grin that projected the phrase “DOES NOT BODE WELL” in Las Vegas blinking neon across its beastly teeth.
Redfish lurched into the kitchen bellowing, “What is the most frequently asked question in America?”
Without pause I answered, “Where do you want to eat?”
As Redfish secured a chair, he looked at me like I had just belched in the Queen’s face. “No, that’s just in Austin. The most asked question all across the land of the free has become, ‘Who was the toughest President of the United States?’ Not the most ruthless politician, but which President, in his prime, would win an old fashioned bare-knuckled-brawl. You know, like the ones in that John Ford/John Wayne movie THE QUIET MAN, or the Guy Ritchie flick SNATCH with Brad Pitt.”
“Well Redfish, as you know, some questions are unanswerable. Like ‘Will there be a baseball season in 2020?' And, 'How do eels reproduce?' ”
“Let me ask you another question, Mister Boy. Have you ever heard of Magical Realism? Virtual Reality? Artificial Intelligence? Regeneration. Money Talks?”
Somehow Redfish and his associates, Elon Musk, Dr. Anthony Fauci, Mike Dell, Billy Graham Jr., Charles Koch, Kim Kardashian and Stephen King had come up with a way to bring back all the dead Presidents, or at least a reasonable facsimile of the Commanders-in-Chief. It was an expensive project, and very hush-hush. If you haven’t heard about this undertaking, you’re not alone. Only the One-Percenters were notified of this scientific break-through and given a chance to purchase tickets for the “PRESIDENTIAL PUNCHOUT!”
Excitement reached a fever pitch among the thousands of billionaires who paid top dollar in anticipation of a conflict between Trump and LBJ, or perhaps Nixon and Bill Clinton. And others looked forward to a celebrity-packed arena when Reagan and Obama might go fist to face. But when the first round of matches were announced, there was little interest in Martin Van Buren vs. Rutherford B. Hayes, or Millard Fillmore going against Harry Truman. James Madison was truly a man with a strong constitution, but the fourth POTUS stood only 5’4’’. If Hilary Clinton had been elected, Madison would still be the shortest President. The average height of American Presidents so far is 5'11". So all Presidents 5'8" and under were declared ineligible to compete. That disqualified Harrison, Van Buren, both Adamses, McKinley, Taylor, Polk, Harrison, Hayes and Grant. Grant’s drinking habits might have also made him an unlikely champion. And although Franklin Roosevelt was as tough as they come, he was wheelchair-bound. Plus, Jimmy Carter refused to participate (or have his likeness participate) in such a pointless act of violence. Also disappointing was the cancellation of the Bush vs. Bush card. It’s really not surprising that W declined to fight his father’s doppelganger. His suggestion that Dick Cheney and Dan Quayle take their place was overruled when Quayle could not be found, and the doctor assigned to take a look at Cheney’s heart could find nothing. Andrew Jackson was a fighting man, but at 5' 10" and 154 pounds he might have encountered great difficulty against the 200-pounders. So Old Hickory was out before he was in. The rumors about the scalp of Jackson’s avatar being removed by an oil-rich, dark complexioned couple from Florida, or Oklahoma, were never proven.
The first bout featured two of the largest gladiators. William Howard Taft’s replica took on the hefty current President of the USA. The fight was over almost before it began. As the two pugilists moved toward each other near the center of the ring, MAGA Man’s eyes began to bulge out of his skull. Staring in terror at the 325-pound Taft, it dawned on Donald for the first time that he was not the most "hugest" of all Presidents. The veins in his face suddenly looked like a dam broke on the Red River and a mighty flood might erupt at any minute. As the enormity of Taft rushed (as fast as a land-manatee can rush) toward him, Trump staged a strategic retreat. But Trump got tangled up in his own feet just as Taft lunged forward, gasping for breath. Their feet met in an odd yet somewhat graceful dance, sending both combatants to the mat with the bulky Taft landing on top of Trump. Ringsiders could hear the whooompf as all air left Trump’s body. Neither blob was able to rise unassisted, but Taft was counted out for creating the collision. When Donald’s people were able to stand him up, he began screaming hysterically, “The hair!! The hair you morons! Fix the hair!” Indeed the Presidential coiffure appeared to be attempting to escape in all directions at once. At that moment, an American bald eagle could have found an appropriate nesting place. And speaking of baldness, the Trump had him some.
One of the first classic pairings was Dwight Eisenhower and Gerald Ford. They both played a lot of football and they both did some boxing. Ford even coached boxing for a short time. Theodore Roosevelt also boxed and practiced Judo. But Teddy had a severely damaged retina that would prevent him from passing the physical for this tournament. He roared like a Bull Moose when told he could not compete. So who won between the two war heroes, Ford and Ike? It was a brutal bout with two physically gifted competitors giving it their all. They slugged it out toe to toe. We like Ike, but the winner was Gerald Ford. His one-inch height- and 20-pound weight advantage, along with his more advanced boxing experience, proved too much for the West Point graduate who just faded away.
And John Kennedy’s balky back may have been the difference against Barack Obama in a match-up of agile and focused jocks. But what about a Mount Rushmore showdown between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln? Washington was a warrior and a formidable specimen at 6' 2" On the other hand, Lincoln, the log-splitter, was renowned for his strength. And at 6' 4'' was the tallest Prez. In a slugfest in which no one cheated, Honest Abe’s power carried him to victory over the man who could not tell a lie!
After LBJ knocked out Herbert Hoover in a depressingly quick first round, the match everyone looked forward to (Johnson vs. the winner of Clinton/Trump) loomed on the horizon. But the Clinton/Trump fight was canceled when Trump produced a note from his doctor saying Donald’s bone spurs were too advanced for the billionaire to fight. Somehow The New York Post got wind of the story and speculated that Trump feared his real weight would be leaked to the world — a claim that generated an Executive Action Proclamation from DJT that The Post would forever hence be known as The New York Hoax. But it really didn’t matter since Clinton notified the commission that he had a speaking engagement at Oxford and couldn’t make it to the venue at the Austin Coliseum.
The Reagan vs. Jefferson contest looked promising. Jefferson was eloquently evasive, while Reagan showed a tremendously powerful right in the first round. But Jefferson sat on his stool eating Crepes Suzette and refused to answer the bell to start the second round. He later explained to the press that the fight did not correspond with “my pursuit of happiness.”
Reagan forgot to show up for his next fight, and telegraphed Nixon to “Win one for the Gipper.” But Nixon failed the drug test, claiming that Elvis Presley had slipped something into his scotch.
With the entire event beginning to lose the dignity long associated with the Presidency, the tournament judges — Clarence Thomas, Heidi Klum and Blake Shelton — declared the farce null and void. The promoters (Don King and Harvey Weinstein) were immediately arrested and charged with “Practicing Tom Foolery and Unjustifiable Silliness at the Expense of American Self-Esteem.” Redfish was last seen paddling a boogie board toward Cuba.
With 13 former Presidents standing in the ring waving bye-bye to the crowd, Teddy Roosevelt came charging through the ropes, punching out every POTUS he could reach. Woodrow Wilson and poor old James Garfield were Teddy’s most bloodied victims. Still fuming from not being allowed to compete, Roosevelt demanded to be crowned “Champion of All Presidents!” Ringsiders John Kerry, John Legend, John Cena and Johnny Depp eventually restrained him.
And so, like so many American conflicts, this parody of pugilism ended with more questions than answers. The only person who came out ahead was that little man selling tickets — P.T. Barnum.
James BigBoy Medlin © 2020
James BigBoy Medlin was the sports writer for the original Austin Sun. His column was called "Why Not?"
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