What did our 26th president do to deserve this? After all, TR was the most athletic of our presidents. When cavalry officers complained about having to ride 25 miles a day for training, Roosevelt — at age 51 — jumped on his horse and rode 100 miles in one day to quiet them. He was a skilled boxer and a black belt in jujitsu. He kept a lion and a bear as pets at the White House. He not only survived an assassination attempt in 1912 but went on to deliver his speech — with the bullet still in him.
How does he keep losing to someone like Jefferson, whom history rarely recorded walking 100 yards, let alone running it?
It could be a sort of karma. After all, Roosevelt — all chest hair and Hemingway-like vigor — thought of baseball as a sport for wimps, famously calling it a “mollycoddle game.” During his eight years in the White House, he apparently never attended a single major league game, despite being the first president to be issued a lifetime pass by Major League Baseball.
Teddy’s streak is the disgrace that has launched a thousand quips, giving birth to a blog, a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, mugs, T-shirts, iPad covers, stadium blankets and even underwear.
But for a team that had little stability when it was new to Washington — as managers and players kept revolving — the Racing Presidents were a touchstone for fans, a tradition to root for, even if it meant turning our most heroic chief executive into a lovable loser.
Teddy’s defeats are so ingrained that the idea of him winning could be worrisome in a sport as superstitious as baseball. From Joe DiMaggio touching second base every time he ran from the outfield to the dugout to Jason Giambi wearing a gold thong under his uniform to break slumps to Wade Boggs eating a whole chicken before every game, baseball players don’t like to mess with fate. So now that the Nats are in first place in the National League East, wouldn’t Teddy jinx them if he stops losing?
“It’s exactly the opposite,” says blogger Scott Ableman, founder of Let Teddy Win. By a wide margin, he says, the many people he hears from “believe there is a curse — that the Nationals won’t win until Teddy wins.”
After all, Nats outfielder Jayson Werth didn’t seem worried about a jinx when he interfered with Abe, George and Tom in two separate races last year in an attempt to help Teddy win (in one, Jefferson won anyway; in the other, Teddy fell and couldn’t get up, so a dejected Werth sprinted to victory instead). “It’s bigger than me, man. It’s bigger than me,” Werth later said of Teddy’s losing streak.