A big question for the Washington Nationals this summer is not when all-star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman or pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg will return to the team.
No, the big question is: Will Teddy ever win a Presidents Race?
Kids who have been to Nationals Park know what I’m talking about. In the middle of the fourth inning at every Nats home game, the team features the Racing Presidents. Four big-headed mascots race around the field as the fans cheer. The races are silly and part of the fun of going to the game.
But poor Teddy — the mascot who is supposed to be President Theodore Roosevelt — has never won. He has lost hundreds of races in every imaginable way. Teddy has fallen, lost his way to the ballpark, been nosed out at the finish line and lost by a mile. Last week, it appeared that Teddy had actually won the race, but Screech, the Nationals’ eagle mascot, disqualified him because he raced on a Segway.
Of course, Teddy is up against some strong competition. First, there’s George Washington. He was the leader of the American Revolution, the first president and is known as “The Father of His Country.” Washington is on the quarter and the $1 bill, and he has a monument in Washington. George Washington has home-field advantage.
Then there’s Thomas Jefferson. He was the main author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president. Check out the nickels in your pocket: That’s Jefferson’s profile. He may have a better monument than Washington because you can float past the Jefferson Memorial in paddleboats.
Teddy’s other competitor is Abraham Lincoln, who also has a big monument in Washington. He led the country through its greatest crisis, the Civil War. Lincoln was such a great president that his head is on the penny and the $5 bill.
Maybe this is the problem: Teddy never wins because he doesn’t think he’s as good as the other Racing Presidents.
But Teddy Roosevelt was a good president. He was the youngest person ever to be president, and while he doesn’t have a monument on the Mall, he does have an island in the Potomac River named after him. That’s because Roosevelt was a conservationist, meaning he thought we should save natural places for people to enjoy. The four Racing Presidents can also be seen — looking a good bit more serious — on Mount Rushmore in South Dakota.
Still, Teddy never wins the Presidents Race. I coached a couple of kids’ teams that went an entire season without a win. Maybe you have been on that kind of team. It’s not much fun. Teddy has gone more than five seasons without a victory. Everybody likes to win . . . sometime.
So the next time you’re in Nationals Park and the Racing Presidents come running out onto the field, yell your loudest for Teddy.
Maybe if we all yell loudly enough, he will win. At least once.
Fred Bowen is the author of 16 sports books for kids. His latest book is called “Real Hoops.”