As the Wizards and Caps wrapped up their seasons, and as the Nats embarked on a historic hot streak, we all may have missed one of the biggest stories of the month: something seems to be going on with the Nats’ Racing Presidents races. Something untoward.
In a development reminiscent of the chaotic presidential campaign of 1800 — in which Thomas Jefferson and his running mate Aaron Burr tied in the electoral college, sending matters to the Fedaralist-controlled House of Representatives amid fears of national unrest — the giant-headed Thomas Jefferson guy has yet to win a race this season.
Okay, that’s not actually very reminiscent of the presidential campaign of 1800, but it was an interesting election, and you should read about it.
Anyhow, as you know, Teddy Roosevelt once went more than 500 races without winning, from the summer of 2006 until October of 2012. In the two years since — even as William Howard Taft turned a quartet of racing leaders into a quintet — there were no lovable losers in Nats Town, except when the Phillies visited.
Well, we’re two months into the season. The Nats won’t run another Racing Presidents race until June 1. And a certain giant Tom has yet to win a single race.
“The pattern looks awful familiar,” said Scott Ableman, the marketing executive behind Let Teddy Win, arguably the most comprehensive site devoted to racing giant-headed mascots in world history. “It’s incredible to think that the Nationals would try to pull this off again, but all the evidence suggests that that’s exactly what they’re doing.”
What evidence? Well, there’s the standings. In 2013, all five presidents had won a race by May 25. In 2014, they had all won by April 17. This year, only Tom is winless, with the other presidents each having at least three wins.
But more than that, there are hijinx that seem focused on the Sage of Monticello. On May 9, Jefferson conspired to cause a massive pile-up, then sprinted toward freedom, only to be disrupted by some sort of cow creature known as Beef Nachos Libre.
On May 19, the other four presidents shoved the Father of the Declaration of Independence into a wall, and then proceeded toward the finish line without him, five become four, a party split into two classes, wolves and sheep.
Then there are the announcers who have — independently? — noticed this pattern. Nats Park PA announcer Jerome Hruska’s call of the May 9 race gave special prominence to Tom; “nothing’s going to stop him now!” Hruska roared, before the cow attack. And the MASN announcers have also played along.
“He’s not gonna win this time, either,” MASN’s Bob Carpenter said during the May 19 loss, after noting Tom’s winless season. “Number three in the back, giving up.”
“Is he the new Teddy?” F.P. Santangelo asked, giving voice to the silent fear. “Is that what we’re doing here?”
“Tom Jefferson has not won a race this year, and he almost caught Abe there,” Carpenter said after yet another loss.
“The fact that [Carpenter and Santangelo] are talking about Tom’s winless streak says that someone is probably pointing it out to them,” said Ableman, arguably the world’s most reliable Racing Presidents watcher. “The pattern’s there. The pattern’s there to say this isn’t chance; it’s conspiracy.”
The thing is, the Nats — or whoever is pulling the strings here — might not realize exactly what they’re up against. Sure, Teddy Roosevelt had his vocal fans — eventually including a powerful U.S Senator — but going after Jefferson in the shadow of the Commonwealth is like bringing barbecue to a PETA convention: lots of anger and lots of red meat will ensue.
“I’ll tell you what, if they want some fans from the Charlottesville area to come up to these games, Tom needs to start winning,” Carpenter said during that May 19 broadcast.
Ableman isn’t about to change the name of his Web site, but if duty calls, he will be there to lead the movement.
“I find it hard to believe that I would be in this position again,” he said, ” but I would absolutely get behind Tom.”
Of course, in chatting about this for some time — which, let’s be honest, should earn me at least three or four raises — Ableman and I came up with another theory. What if the Nats are just doing this to actually increase Tom’s Q rating? Because, if we’re being honest for a moment, he probably is the least beloved Racing President. Lincoln is unmistakable. Teddy is still riding the wave of his playfully unsuccessful history. Taft has panache. Washington wears No. 1 on his back, and gave the home team its first name. But Tom?
“He’s just sort of the quiet one,” Ableman noted. “And a lot of people call him George. I see that all the time: people are waiting to take pictures with him, and then they call him George.”
So — stick with me here — maybe this is a short-term stunt to create a massive media push behind Tom. (Or at least a blog post on a day when the entire world is focused on international football.) “All Racing Presidents Are Created Equal,” that kind of thing. But if it’s a season-long gimmick? Well, Racing President gimmicks are best which gimmick the least.
“I never make predictions,” Ableman said. “To me, there’s no doubt that something’s going on. Whether it will last is another story.”
In any case, eventually this too — like the chaos of 1800’s election — shall pass. And when it does, we would be wise to remember Jefferson’s words.
“As the storm is now subsiding, and the horizon becoming serene,” he once wrote “[w]e can no longer say there is nothing new under the sun. For this whole chapter in the history of man is new….The order and good sense displayed in this recovery from delusion, and in the momentous crisis which lately arose, really bespeak a strength of character in our nation which augurs well for the duration of our [Natitude].”