A Return to Normalcy: Warren G. Harding, NFL & You!


“I predict a return to normalish behavior.”

The End of the Campaign Trail – In 1920, the White House had an open seat.  Two term Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson had suffered a stroke and was not seeking re-election.  The Republicans smelled an opportunity to recapture the presidency.  But whom to nominate?

It wasn’t like nowadays.  “The people” didn’t pick candidates by voting in primaries.  Instead, party bigwigs came together at their national convention and hashed it out.  Smokey back-room deals were the order of the day.  You line up your delegates, I’ll line up mine and we’ll see who comes out on top.

When the Republican convention opened on June 8, 1920 in Chicago, the favorites were Illinois Governor Frank Orren Lowden and Major General Leonard Wood.

The convention soon deadlocked.  The governor couldn’t woo enough of the general’s supporters and vica versa.  After 8 rounds of balloting, they were still the top two vote-getters, but neither had enough to claim a majority.  Enter the compromise candidate.

I’m TR, dammit!

Just as Pete Rozelle was a compromise candidate to become NFL commissioner in 1960 after NFL owners had deadlocked for 23 ballots, Republican Warren G. Harding was also a compromise candidate who stepped in when none of the top dogs in the field could reach the finish line.  He scored the GOP’s nomination on the 10th ballot.

The late teens had been heady times for America.  World War I was followed by: an influenza epidemic that claimed 700,000 lives; a stagflated economy suffered from inflation and high unemployment; and intense political activism that had resulted most notably in two constitutional amendments: the 19th banned alcohol, and the 20th guaranteed women the right to vote.

Harding sensed that Americans were eager to put the freneticism behind them and return to a slower pace.  On the campaign trail, he promised he advocated a “return to normalcy.”

Life’s full of compromise

The press snickered.  Why?  Because “normalcy” was not an actual word; indeed, “abnormalcy” will still set your spell checker on fire.  The word Harding had been looking for was  “normality.”  But the guy became president, the malapropism stuck, and today “normalcy” is not only in the dictionary, but it’s also the new norm, so to speak, being used more often than “normality.”

Our own frenzied period of Frankenstorms and political elections has also come to a conclusion, and we too pine for a return to normalish behavior.  Harding and Rozelle did what they could to reintroduce stability in their times.  Barack Obama and Roger Godell must now do what they can.  The new NFL norms, confirmed yesterday, are as follows:

  • We can now say with certainty that Detroit is not as good as people expected.  Proof?  A 10-point loss to Minny.
  • The Vikings are better than people expected.  See above.
  • The Falcons will lose games, beginning yesterday
  • New Orleans can still run and gun with the best of them.  See above.
  • The 49ers are the best medicore team the NFL has seen in years.  Their D is tremendous, but when it’s all on the line, they can’t score.  Who T F ties the Rams?
  • The Texans are probably better than whomever you root for.
  • The G-Men have slipped into their usual mid-season mediocrity.  Then again, late season charges are also the norm under Tom Coughlin, so don’t panic just yet.
  • Yes, Virgina, the Jets really do suck.  It’s like the Walt Michaels era all over again.  Just keep feeding Mike Augustyniak the ball.

West Coast Craig helps you return to abnormality later today at 1:30 pm EST.

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About the Author ()

Mattville's George Plimpton, The Public Professor, is indeed a real, honest-to-goodness, legitimate professor at a major Maryland university. But because he doesn't have a cell phone or cable, he's crazy enough to be with us. A member of Angry Ward's Urban Spur Posse, the terrorized Bronx graffiti artist's by correcting their grammar. His loves? The Yankees, Knicks, NY Rangers and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He also has a real website: ThePublicProfessor.com (http://www.thepublicprofessor.com/).
  • vinny from brooklyn

    if the jets had a mike augustyniak they would be at .500 right now. you taught me something today though. didn’t know all that.

    • Time Warp Tony

      The Jets need to give the ball to Blair Thomas, bench Nagle for Ken O’Brien and get Johnny Mitchell the damn ball!

      • http://meetthematts.com/ Meet The Matts

        You are good, Time Warp Tony! Very good!

  • buffalobilly84

    Mccarthy, you ruined everything yesterday. You mushed my Bills and killed Cheesy’s Under pick by scoring that touchdown on defense. That’s why your G-men played like G-girls in Cincy.

    • http://twitter.com/CheesyBruin Cheesy Bruin

      Go get ‘em Billy! Goal-line fumble and late game end zone INT kept my prophecy from truism.

  • http://twitter.com/Cookies_Corner Cookies Corner

    Denver F*cking Broncos people. 6-4. Suck it.

    And Houston that team with the best NFL record at 8-1? Well I’m still calling them the Oilers.

    • Cam_James

      I still consider them the oilers because people from houston are soo

  • jgclancy

    Go Vikings!–Exactly where they are supposed to be.

    Today’s celebratory breakfast for yesterday’s win is…..coffee and a blueberry muffin.

  • http://twitter.com/CheesyBruin Cheesy Bruin

    PP, what were we thinking with those 19th & 20th amendments? Taking away booze AND giving women more power??? The downfall of the American man starts there I suppose.
    Johnny Holmes as Major Wood’s running mate sounds about right.

  • WestCoastCraig

    Harding’s in the conversation for worst president ever, isn’t he? And, according to wikipedia, he also coined the phrase “founding fathers,” so we can blame him for that too. However, he does have a nice public golf course named after him out here in Griffith Park.

    Once Giants receivers remember how to catch a ball, they’ll right that ship.

    • http://ThePublicProfessor.com The Public Professor

      His administration was definitely one of the most corrupt of all time, though not him personally. The latest historical thinking is that he was a mixed bag. The corruption was bad, but he also did some positive things before his brain blew up.

  • http://meetthematts.com/ Meet The Matts

    LOVE this column! How often do we get to learn about Presidential history AND find out why the Giants stunk up Cleveland… or Cincy. Same thing, whatever. And we almost had some Major Wood in the Oval Office long before that of Bill Clinton!

  • AngryWard

    Prof, the Packers are lurking. Let’s not forget what they did to the Texans. They also beat a pretty good Bears team and New Orleans. Think, and I hate to say this, they will make a strong push for best team in the league by season’s end. My Vikes are scrappy. I’d be happy if they split with both the Packers and the Bears.

  • Walking Tall

    Rex Ryan and Tannenbaum have to go.

  • http://twitter.com/JunoirBlaber Junoir Blaber

    Goodell is not fit to tie Rozelle’s shoes!!

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