1 of 6 | Nationals' Mascots, The Presidents, race during the Nationals game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Nationals Park in Washington on April 5, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo
Update (September 20, 2:45 p.m.):
Letting Teddy Win is now a bipartisan issue: The White House has thrown its support behind the campaign to let Theodore Roosevelt win the Washington Nationals Presidents Race.
"This is an outrage," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told the press pool in his daily gaggle. "I agree with Sen. McCain, I"m comfortable saying my boss agrees with Sen. McCain," noting that President Obama chose Oswatamie, Kan., the location of an famous Roosevelt speech, as a site for an important speech last year.
Original post follows
It's almost October, which means the regular baseball season is winding down, and the playoff races are heating up.
For the first time, residents of the nation's capital have a baseball team to really root for heading into the post-season, as the Washington Nationals are in the middle of their first real shot at a playoff berth. But Nats fans know an even more heated race unfolds on the field at Nationals Park for every home game, a race that ignites the passion in the hearts of every fan and every patriot: the Presidents Race.
For the uninitiated, the premise is simple: Every home game, beginning during the 2006 season, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt compete in a fourth-inning footrace.
They wear their presidential numbers on the back of Nationals jerseys unless they're in period costume. Cheating is accepted, if not expected.
And Teddy always loses.
Teddy's string of losses, stretching across more than 500 races, includes disqualifications for riding rickshaws, segways, ziplines and and golf carts, distractions, tackles, and trips. One game--the last played at RFK Stadium before Nationals Park opened in 2008--Teddy failed to even show up for the race (he was shown on the unfinished field the new stadium).
The losses have set off conspiracy theories and a "Let Teddy Win" campaign run by fan Scott Ableman, who catalogs the results of each race.
"The Nationals will try to deny that there's a conspiracy," Ableman told ESPN, "but the facts are there for everyone to see. They do not want Teddy to win." Ableman is featured in an ESPN E:60 documentary, narrated by Ken Burns, which aired Tuesday to introduce the Presidents Race (and the relatively unknown Nationals) to the country ahead of the playoffs.
E:60 interviewed Senator John McCain, a great proponent for justice and an ardent admirer of the 26th president. McCain has had enough of Teddy's losses, and he's speaking out.
"I’ve been paying a lot of attention to the fact that one of the truly great presidents in history has never won a race," McCain said. "I am outraged. That’s why I am calling for Congressional hearings to right this horrible wrong."
"It's a heartbreaking experience. It's one of the more traumatic experiences I've had as I was my hero, my childhood idol, be treated in such a cavalier fashion," McCain laments.
The film points out that, of the four presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore (the same four who compete in the Presidents Race), only Teddy has failed to be honored with his face on money, and his monument in Washington is out of the way and a small draw for tourists.
“I’m often consoled in times after I see my beloved TR finish last. I’m reminded of his immortal words: 'The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood. Who at best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.' Go Teddy!”
Ahead of game play Wednesday, the Nationals led their division by 6.5 games and hold the strongest record in all of baseball, 89-57.