Upon Further Review

If Nixon Was Good at Football, History Might Be Different

America’s favorite sport created a persecution complex for the 37th president.

Circa 1930: Members of the Whittier College football team with Richard Nixon wearing the number 12 shirt.

Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images

Listen to the first episode of Upon Further Review:

Hear the first episode of Upon Further Review via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify, Google Play, TuneIn, or wherever you listen.

Football really mattered to Richard Nixon. The only problem is that he sucked at it. That frustration fueled a persecution complex that would eventually bring down his presidency.

How would history be different had Nixon been more than just a tackle dummy on his college football team? Upon Further Review, the new podcast from Slate’s Mike Pesca, based on his book of the same name, explores that question and other great what ifs from sports history.


In Episode 1, Leon Neyfakh and the producers behind Slate’s Slow Burn podcast look at the connection between the Nixon administration and the 37th president’s preoccupation with football. Historian Julian Zelizer and biographer Evan Thomas also provide armchair analysis.

Over the course of five episodes, Mike and a roster of podcast all-stars will explore counterfactual sporting scenarios through a combination of speculative fiction, investigative journalism, and sound-rich narrative. From turning points that every sports fan rues or celebrates, to the forgotten would-be inflection points that defined sports history, Upon Further Review answers age-old questions and settles the score.

Podcast production by Derek John.