In fact, the only contender to come remotely close was the Caltech men’s basketball team (possible slogan: “not recruited for our height”), which lost 310 consecutive NCAA Division III conference games over 26 years, before rallying to beat Occidental College 46-45 in February 2011.
But if one current streak continues, history of the wrong kind will be made midway through the fourth inning at Nationals Park on Aug. 18, when the world will witness perhaps the first competitor in a professional sports arena to lose for the 500th consecutive time. It’s not exactly how you want to get on “SportsCenter” — but that’s the fate that awaits “Racing President” Teddy Roosevelt if nothing is done to propel him to victory when the Nationals return home from a 10-gameroad trip.
As a season-ticket holder since the day the team moved from Montreal to Washington in 2005, I can’t for the life of me understand why the first-place Nationals still want their most popular on-field attraction — beyond the team, of course — to personify losing. Maybe the streak fit when the Nats were losing 100 games a season, as they did in 2008 and 2009. But for a winning team with the best young talent in baseball, the streak feels as outdated as the Orioles fans who still shout “O!” during the national anthem at Nats games.
At Nationals Park, they call it “the main event.” Halfway through the fourth inning of every home game, four giant-headed mascots — George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt — are shown “racing” through the District on the video scoreboard. A door in center field opens, and the contest turns live, with the Racing Presidents usually dashing along the right field wall, turning at the corner and sprinting to a finish line behind first base.
It’s not just that Teddy has lost every single race since the competition began in 2006 — 496 straight after Friday’s doubleheader, according to the official record lovingly kept on a fan blog, Let Teddy Win. The magic is in how he usually loses.
Teddy has been tripped and tackled. He’s pulled a hamstring. He’s been attacked by a panther. He’s slipped on banana peels, run the wrong way and been disqualified for riding a scooter, a Segway, a golf cart, a zip line and a rickshaw. Most often, he’s been distracted at the last minute — by popsicles,signs in the stands, Mother’s Day flowers, a kangaroo, a rally penguin, a racing monkey, a giant panda, a rogue lobster, a juggling clown, Miss Iowa and even the space shuttle Discovery.