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Monday, September 24, 2012

The Real Presidents Race


I suppose my love affair with Teddy Roosevelt started when USA Today assigned me to write about the best place to see wildlife in Washington, DC (excluding Capitol Hill). Not wanting to take the easy way out and yak about The National Zoo, I opted instead to cover Theodore Roosevelt Island, which, although located on the Virginia side of Potomac, is actually part of DC.

This little-known homage to our nation's 26th president was quite a find. The pristine island combines Teddy's love of nature with a statue you would swear came out of the Soviet Union. Even though said statue was a bit reminiscent of Stalin, I still left the island tsarry-eyed. 

Yet, my love affair with Teddy lay dormant for more than a year. But suddenly, watching an ESPN segment about the Presidents Races at Washington Nationals Park made me fall head over heels all over again.

The eight-minute piece, narrated by Ken Burns, highlights Teddy's travails during these races, which feature the four presidents depicted on Mount Rushmore. The quartet is made up of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and one Theodore Roosevelt. The race takes place once during each Nationals home game and Teddy always loses. 

Yes, during the course of five years, Teddy has won nary a race. The Let Teddy Win blog famously outlines many close but no cigar finishes. There was, for example, the time Teddy was tripped up by Martha Washington. Another time, the Kool-Aid mascot made him pitch over. Adding insult to injury, he has lost, in team mascot races, to stuffed pierogis, sausages, and beer steins.

The ESPN piece outlines this sad story, and poetically ends with the mascot of Teddy sitting in front of his statue on his island in the middle of the Potomac. 

The story tugged at my heart strings. And I was not alone. For on September 20, President Obama himself threw his support behind the Let Teddy Win movement, agreeing with Senator John McCain that a congressional inquiry might be needed
to look into Teddy-Gate..
But I digress. After watching the ESPN story, I knew I needed to immediately make a beeline to Nationals Park to watch the race (thank you, Destination DC, for the ticket) and cheer Teddy on. Surely, with my  loving support urging him home, finally, this time, Teddy would win.

I left my seat just once during the entire game, which is a world record for my bladder. It was after the third inning. But the top of the fourth was a quick one-two-three-out inning, and unbeknownst to me, the race always take place in the middle of the fourth. Thus, when I got back to my seat, I discovered I missed the show. I was crushed. That night when I got back home, I could only console myself by viewing Presidents Races past on YouTube and catching up on the Let Teddy Win blog. Thus did Teddy become my Saturday night squeeze. We spent a lovely evening together.

As this baseball season is drawing to a close, I will not likely be able to get to the stadium again in 2012...unless I somehow manage to wrangle playoff tickets. And I do have a good feeling about  Teddy's chances this post-season--he now has bi-partisan backing and this is, after all, the first time the Nationals have even made the playoffs. So, it could be Teddy's time.

And if not, I guess I will simply repeat the mantra that plays in my head every October as a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan. Wait until next year, my dear Teddy bear. 

By the way, rumor has it the Nats will be adding another president to take part in next year's races. Who do you think should be the fifth Beatle? 

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