The Center for the Study of Sport and Leisure in Society

Hey Washington Nationals: Don’t Ever Let Teddy Win

In Baseball, Fandom on October 3, 2012 at 12:04 pm

By Ryan Swanson

Update (10/4): The Washington Nationals caved.  Last night, October 3, 2012, Teddy broke his 525 race losing streak. He defeated mascots Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington in the 4th inning Presidents race at Nats Park. What a shame. I stand by my post from yesterday.  

Hey Washington Nationals: Don’t Ever You Should Have Never Let Teddy Win

Today, on the last day of Major League Baseball’s regular season, Washington D.C. has much to celebrate.  The Nationals have clinched the National League East division title and are headed to the playoffs.  Gio Gonzales, Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman lead a young talented ensemble that seems destined not only to make a run at the World Series this year, but for seasons to come.  The shutdown of Steven Strasburg doesn’t seem to have derailed the team. When the playoffs start this weekend, it will be the first time since 1933 that playoff baseball (not including the Negro Leagues) will take place in the District.  Washington’s long losing nightmare seems to be over.

But not for Teddy Roosevelt.  Teddy racked up his 525th consecutive loss last night at NatsPark.  Confused?  I am, of course, talking about Teddy the mascot.  In the middle of the fourth inning at Nats’ home games, the presidential mascot race around the field takes place.  Teddy Roosevelt faces (always loses to) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln.  Whether by disqualification, ineptness, showing up in the wrong place or at the wrong time, or simply because he’s too slow Teddy always loses.  Every time.  The other three presidents split the victories.  And this has become a thing in Washington.

The “Let Teddy Win” website keeps a tally of the losses.  There’s a Facebook page devoted to building support for Teddy.  In keeping with Washingtonian culture, one can buy campaign style buttons and shirts supporting Teddy.  In the last few months of the 2012 season, pressure has mounted to let big-headed Teddy win at least once. Ken Burns, ESPN’s E:60, and Senator John McCain have all gotten involved.  An amusing and witty seven minute documentary outlining a “vast left wing conspiracy” meant to keep Teddy from ever winning recently debuted (see it on the blog.letteddywin.com site).  The Wall Street Journal put the story on the front page, with a ubiquitous Hedcut picture of Teddy the mascot.  Even President Barack Obama called for a Teddy win.

It’s all fun stuff.  But make no mistake (today’s the first presidential debate, so I’ll write in turn), the National’s Baseball Club should never let Teddy win.  Why?  Theodore Roosevelt, the champion of the “strenuous life” and most sports-minded president ever, loathed baseball.  Losing every night at NatsPark seems like a fitting penance.

Roosevelt loved football; some even say saved the game.  He also played tennis, wrestled, and participated in every sort of outdoorsy activity.  He did not like baseball.  This distaste was despite the fact that the modern World Series started during Roosevelt’s administration and baseball attendance spiked as Roosevelt presided over the nation.  Roosevelt, according to his daughter Alice, viewed baseball as a “mollycoddle game.”  Baseball wouldn’t prepare the United States for the Darwinian struggle that Roosevelt saw coming.  “Tennis, football, lacrosse, boxing, polo, yes: They are violent, which appealed to us,” Alice explained.  “But baseball?  Father wouldn’t watch it, not even at Harvard!”

Baseball organizers tried to sway the 26th President.  Roosevelt was given a lifetime pass by presidents of the American and National Leagues, allowing him free admission to any baseball game.  He never used it.  The Washington Post noticed TR’s disdain for the national game.  “With all his love of outdoor life and sports, Mr. Roosevelt did not go within the ball grounds during his seven years in the White House,” the paper reported in 1909.

If this isn’t enough, consider also that Roosevelt always emphasized participation over victory.  “I was never a champion at anything,” Roosevelt declared, almost proudly.  Thus to always run and always lose, is, in a way, Rooseveltian.

So I say let Teddy keep participating.  Let him stay “in the arena.”  But win?  No.  The Nationals are showing great historical adeptness by keeping Teddy from crossing the line first in the mascots’ race.  It’s tough to think of a parallel comparison, but try this.  Let’s say the people who organize the huge and influential Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held each year in Las Vegas decided, for some reason, to break up the tech talk with a mascot race.  Would they let the Lenny the Luddite mascot beat out Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Larry Page?  I think not.

Don’t let Teddy win.  While Theodore Roosevelt was a path-breaking president and a vigorous athlete, he hated baseball.  These things have consequences.  He can keep running.  But he must stay in baseball purgatory a bit longer before the Nationals should even think about letting him win the Presidents mascot race.

Go Nats!

  1. Great timing!! Save the date, 10/3/2012. Teddy Wins!

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