President-elect Joe Biden's deep-rooted ties with the Pittsburgh Steelers date back to his life's most tragic memory.
Five days after his wife Neilia and daughter Amy died in a car accident that also badly injured his sons Beau and Hunter, team members of the Steelers paid a visit to his boys' hospital bed — in 1972, just two days before Christmas.
Hunter and Beau Biden, 3 and 4 at the time, had suffered a broken leg and minor skull fracture in the accident. Biden retold the story at a rally in Pittsburgh on Nov. 2 of how, as a29-year-old U.S. Senator, he left to buy a Christmas tree for his boys in the hospital. Biden said after that time he left the hospital, he returned to his sons beaming as the Steelers gifted the boys with a heartfelt gesture during his family's moment of agony.
"I came back and …they had smiles on their face and each of them were holding a football signed by the entire Steel Curtain, the Pittsburgh team," Biden recalled. "And I said, 'What happened, boys?' And that was the first time they smiled. And they said, 'Rocky Bleier and Franco Harris came,' because guess what happened? The Rooneys (the Steelers' owners since the franchise's formation in 1933), really fine, fine people, the Rooneys decided that they were going to send Rocky and Franco to see my boys."
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris (Photo: Olivier Douliery, AFP via Getty Images)
Harris, the former Penn State and Steelers fullback, introduced Biden at a rally on Nov. 2, days before Biden was elected President. The connection is just one of many tie-ins to both Biden and newly elected Vice President Kamala Harris share with the sports world.
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Presidents have showcased close relationships with sports figures and pledged their fandom to teams in the past, including former President Barack Obama's Chicago sports ties and former President Donald Trump's affiliations with several notable athletes.
Here's a look at both Biden and Harris' sports histories.
On Joe Biden …
► Although Biden has those ties to the Steelers, he identifies primarily as an Eagles fan, and was on the field celebrating Philadelphia's Super Bowl victory in 2018. Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, celebrated with the team afterwards.
► Biden regularly cheers for the Phillies, partly because he's from Scranton, Pennsylvania, but also because his wife Jill is a huge Phillies fan. Biden also roots for the New York Yankees due to influence from his grandfather.
► Biden, a Syracuse law school graduate, has been a big Orange basketball fan. In a message to coach Jim Boeheim's surprise 2016 Final Four team, he said in a social media video: "Everyone in this town knows, from the President (Obama) on down, that I bleed Orange. I can't say how proud we are of the pluck, determination and the incredible skill you guys have."
► Biden was a standout wide receiver in high school (Archmere Academy in Claymont, Delaware) and also played baseball. His football team went undefeated (8-0) and a clip of Biden scoring a touchdown can be seen here (it was posted in 2010 with narration by Bill Peterman, the quarterback who passed to Biden).
Struggling with a stutter in his youth, Biden wrote in his memoir, "Promises to Keep: On Life and Politics" that sports became his safe haven: "As much as I lacked confidence in my ability to communicate verbally, I always had confidence in my athletic ability. Sports were as natural to me as speaking was unnatural. And sports turned out to be my ticket to acceptance — and more. I wasn’t easily intimidated in a game, so even when I stuttered, I was always the kid who said, ‘Give me the ball.’"
► Biden played on the University of Delaware's freshman team in college in 1961. In his book, "Promises to Keep," Biden wrote that he planned to return to the Blue Hens for a shot on the varsity roster but ultimately met his late wife and chose her over football. He wrote: “I hadn’t played for two years, but I surprised the coaches by moving up the depth chart fast. After the annual spring game that April, it looked like I had a shot to start at defensive back. I couldn’t wait until next September; I could almost see the fall season unfold in my head.”
Biden mistakenly claimed he played on the Delaware football team in 1963 during a 2012 speech in Ohio, before later clarifying.
► According to The (Wilmington, Delaware) News Journal, Biden has been seen at the Blue Hens football games at Delaware Stadium showing his support over the years.
On Kamala Harris ..
► Born and raised in the Oakland area before her family moved to Montreal when she was 12, Harris has long been a fan of Bay Area sports teams, chief among them, the San Francisco Giants in MLB, the San Francisco 49ers in the NFL and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA.
► She did catch a bit of gruff from baseball fans, however, when she was spotted wearing a beige Dodgers hat during a walkthrough before a Democratic primary debate in July 2019, the team supported by her husband, Douglas Emhoff. In response to that, Harris spokeswoman Kirsten Allen told the Sacramento Bee that Harris “had to borrow a hat today because she didn’t bring one” and noted that she remains a Giants fan and hadn’t switched allegiances.
Walk-Thru Chic. @KamalaHarris ❤️ pic.twitter.com/ANCnF3uWPy
“Giants and you got to be loyal to your teams,” Harris told ABC in an interview in 2019 when asked which California baseball team she supported. “My heart is big enough to have a definite pride in the Dodgers if they’re playing a non-California team, but it’s the Giants. But my husband is the Dodgers fan, but in the household, there’s some equity. Luckily one of them has been terrible, where the other, it’s been good at this point. Yes, and we have that conversation many times.”
► Harris wrote in her memoir, "The Truths We Hold: An American Journey," that she participated in a dance troupe with five other women when she was in high school.
► She also wrote that it was a friend who set her up with Emhoff on a blind date and that Emhoff’s first introduction to her was a text in which he mentioned he was at a Lakers game.
“I wrote back to say hi, and we made plans to talk the following day,” Harris wrote. “Then I punctuated it with my own bit of awkwardness–Go Lakers!–even though I’m really a Warriors fan.”
► Harris has also posted several times to her social media accounts about her attending Warriors games, including one in 2015 in which she mentioned taking San Francisco’s public transportation system to get to the stadium.
She also sent out a tweet honoring Golden State when it won an NBA regular-season record 73 games in the 2015-16 season.
My #Dubs made history tonight! Congratulations, @warriors, on #73. pic.twitter.com/AJcchoN45l
► After former Lakers star Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26, Harris posted a touching tribute and called Bryant “one of California’s most brilliant icons.”
My heart is completely broken for Vanessa, the entire Bryant family, and all those on board. A father, husband, philanthropist, and one of California’s most brilliant icons, Kobe transcended sports.
Let’s all hold those we love a little tighter today and every day.
Contributing: Edith Noriega and Julio Vega
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