Heads, Tails: 'I Solemnly Swear . . . '

Some strange and unexpected things have happened at presidential inaugurals down through the years. The tradition, alas, will continue in 1985.

When Andrew Jackson invited the common people to drop by the White House after his 1829 swearing-in, a mob of 20,000 trampled the place. Jackson wisely slipped out and went to a hotel for a quiet dinner with friends.

Buffalo Bill Cody, Geronimo and Teddy Roosevelt have ridden in inaugural parades (Roosevelt in his own). Jimmy Carter surprised everyone when he got out of his limousine and walked the rest of the way down Pennsylvania Avenue to the executive residence.

Several Presidents have been sworn in twice because the official inaugural date fell on a Sunday. They took the oath privately at the White House, and then repeated it during the major public ceremony the next day.

That is almost what will happen when President Reagan begins his second term this Sunday and Monday. He will be sworn in Sunday noon at the White House in what was to have been a private ceremony limited to friends and relatives. Members of the press fussed, as they should have, and the White House grudgingly agreed to allow a tightly limited pool of reporters and photographers to witness the event.

It turns out, however, that the White House was not destined to be such a private sanctuary on Sunday. It subsequently was disclosed that the President would perform the toss of the coin for the Super Bowl game at Stanford by remote television hookup. The presidential flip will be carried nationwide by ABC Television, the broadcaster of this year's game between the Miami Dolphins and the San Francisco 49ers. The coin toss will determine which team kicks off to the other.

Some would say that it was inevitable that professional football somehow would get mixed up with the most sacred act of our constitutional government. But that's nonsense. All that the White House had to do was to say, "No. It would not be appropriate."

White House spokesman Larry Speakes did make this promise: "The coin toss will be the only connection between the Super Bowl telecast and the inaugural festivities." That's a relief.

Just imagine the zaniness in Washington if the Redskins had made the Super Bowl. When the band played "Hail to the Chief," you'd wonder if it meant the President of the United States or Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs.

Where are Buffalo Bill and Geronimo, now that we need them?

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