I was wrong. Dramatically.
The piece, which aired Tuesday (video below), was narrated by Ken Burns. It featured patriotic music and incredible archived footage of Teddy losing all manner of races, plus appearances by Teddy around the National Mall. But the whole thing was a bit. Including the repeated appearances by John McCain, speaking on behalf of his hero.
“Theodore Roosevelt was one of the great presidents,” McCain said. “He brought America into the 20th century and transitioned us from a relatively minor nation into a great power....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. I am outraged. That’s why I am calling for Congressional hearings to right this horrible wrong....
“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!”
Not tongue-in-cheek, I still want Teddy to win, although I guess the counterpoint is that ESPN wouldn’t devote more than seven minutes to a giant-headed presidents race without a compelling gimmick. And if I actually thought of Roosevelt as a hero, I wouldn’t really want him reduced to buffoonery, but I guess the counterpoint is that there’s not a lot of dignity in winning a race interrupted by someone in a panther costume, either.
At least the piece gave some nice pub to Roosevelt Island, which really does deserve a few more tourists.
(Via Let Teddy Win, obviously.)