THE affinity between sports and politics has long been noted. Professional basketball and football players become congressmen and senators. Vice presidents of the United States and the People's Republic of China appear on the front pages of newspapers brandishing tennis rackets. A Yale University president and ardent Boston Red Sox fan is weighing a run for the Senate. Potomac fever as aptly describes Washington's passion for the Redskins as the politicians' reluctance to move back to their home districts. A Democratic power broker becomes basketball commissioner.
And now former President Richard Nixon has been tapped to arbitrate a dispute between the baseball umpires and major-league owners over how much extra money the umpires should get for working the expanded playoffs this fall. Some fans of the sport of politics might disapprove any return of Mr. Nixon to active public life, even in as minor a role as deciding how much of the larger pot of playoff money should go to the men in the dark suits. Nixon had been shunned by the sports world before. After his 196 6 loss in the California governor's race, his political career presumed over, he was turned down as general counsel of the baseball players association.
In a nation that seriously asks what constructive use it can make of its former presidents, who for all their experience are ignored more often than revered or deplored, there can be some good-humored curiosity about how the man who engineered such events as the rapprochement with China will handle this one.