Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump faced off in the final presidential debate on Wednesday night, but the outcome of this year’s election had already been decided three days earlier, when the Redskins defeated the Eagles at FedEx Field.
The original Redskins Rule was discovered eight days before the 2000 U.S. presidential election by Elias Sports Bureau executive vice president Steve Hirdt, who was looking for an interesting election-related note for ABCs announcers to share during the “Monday Night Football” game between the Redskins and Titans in Landover. After looking at the results of previous Redskins games before Election Day in the team’s media guide, Hirdt was surprised to find that when the Redskins won their final home game before the presidential election, the incumbent party retained the presidency. When the Redskins lost their final home game before the presidential election, the opposition party took control of the White House. This “rule” had accurately predicted the outcome of all 15 U.S. presidential elections since 1940 — the first election after the Redskins moved to D.C.
“It was well received,” Hirdt told The Post this week of the introduction of the Redskins Rule, complete with a full-screen graphic, on that night’s broadcast. “Al Michaels was our announcer on ‘Monday Night Football’ at the time and he explained it tremendously and helped it along. Every four years I get calls about it. It is rather amazing, but I guess it’s something that will never completely disappear now that the Internet exists. . . . The idea that this will be in the second paragraph of my obituary throws a little damp water on what I spent the rest of my life doing.”
Sure enough, the Redskins’ loss to the Titans accurately predicted George W. Bush’s win over Al Gore in the 2000 election. After Bush was reelected in 2004 following a Redskins home loss to the Packers two days earlier, Hirdt amended the rule to maintain its perfect record. According to Redskins Rule 2.0, the party that won the popular vote in the previous election would win or lose the White House depending on how the Redskins fared in their final home game four years later.
While Hirdt’s Redskins Rule 2.0 could explain the result of the 2004 election and a Redskins home loss to the Steelers preceded the incumbent party losing the White House in 2008, the rule completely failed in 2012. The Redskins lost their final home game before the election, 21-13, to the Panthers, which should have portended incumbent Barack Obama’s defeat. Instead, Obama defeated Mitt Romney to retain the White House.
“I’m actually not too melancholy,” Hirdt told the Chicago Tribune the following day. “This might be a good way to pour dirt over it for good. To tell you the truth, I think the rule has run its course.”
But the Redskins Rule rose from the dead this week, with many outlets suggesting Washington’s win meant the Democrats would retain control of the White House.
“I did not realize until I saw the headlines on Monday that this was the critical weekend,” said Hirdt, who worked his 500th “Monday Night Football” game last November and received several calls about his 16-year-old discovery this week. “I was surprised to see the life that it had this year. This would be the 20th year. Once it failed twice, it didn’t have the same life to me that it seemed to have previously. However, we are mere mortals here, just like those who try to predict earthquakes. Our job is just to look at the data and try to make sense of what we have.”
Hirdt is just as ready to retire the rule as he was four years ago, but he did offer a caveat to the predictor — Redskins Rule 3.0? — for those determined to keep it going.
“Note that the two times it failed, or apparently failed, shall I say, in each case it was a case of an incumbent president being challenged by someone from Massachusetts — John Kerry and Mitt Romney. And where did the Redskins’ franchise begin?”
That’s right . . . Massachusetts!
“So, it’s sort of like at the end of ‘Superman II,’ when Superman entices all those villains to the Fortress of Solitude and he reverses the polarity of the Fortress of Solitude,” Hirdt continued. “Somehow, the polarity of the Redskins Rule seems to be reversed when you have a challenger from Massachusetts opposing the incumbent president. If you were to believe that, then it’s 19 for 19, with the possession arrow pointing toward Hillary.”
Yeah, the Redskins Rule had a good run.