Just for a moment, Teddy Roosevelt seems primed to win the race. But in the last few seconds, Abraham Lincoln pulls ahead, closely followed by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.
It’s over. Teddy staggers behind in last place.
That moment happened seasons ago, on the debut weekend for the Presidents Race in July 2006. Yet it’s a scene that Washington Nationals fans have grown used to, and it’s become the running joke of every home game.
Teddy never wins. Ever.
Since the start of the Presidents Race, the three other presidents have had numerous victories. It’s all in the record on the Let Teddy Win blog, a fan site that keeps track of who wins each race.
Abe is the best of the four, with 155 wins under his belt. George has won 109 times and Tom closely follows him with 104 wins. Teddy stands alone in his continued failures.
Nationals Entertainment Coordinator Tom Davis said it isn’t because Teddy doesn’t train. In fact, Davis said, Teddy has been seen hanging out at the gym and getting ready for the season, just like the other presidents.
Rather, Davis contends that Teddy loses because he just doesn’t take the race seriously enough. And maybe that’s true: At the start of the 2007 season, Teddy was disqualified when he pulled the stunt of zip-lining into the stadium. Then there are the vehicles that he uses in the race, from Segways and golf carts to rickshaws pulled by bicycles.
And when he was the favorite to win the last race held at Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in 2007, he didn’t show up.
“Teddy’s kind of a goofball,” Davis said. “He doesn’t like to run. He likes to come up with different devices for the race.”
But fans have a different idea: The race is rigged against the 26th president.
Scott Ableman, the man behind Let Teddy Win, admits that as a marketing executive, he finds the ploy hilarious. But it’s time for Teddy to catch a break.
“It’s a bit of injustice to a great president, who would have kicked the asses of the other presidents in real life,” Ableman said.
Ableman, a McLean, Va., resident, said he and his son noticed Teddy’s losses during the debut season of the Presidents Race. He found nothing about it on the Internet, so he started the blog.
Nearly five years later, the blog is well-known among Nationals fans and has allowed Ableman to meet a variety of people, ranging from other season ticket holders to people who are simply curious about why Teddy can’t win.
Last year, he met with a group of eighth-graders who had dedicated themselves to the Teddy cause after their teacher showed them the blog.
When he can’t make it to a home game, other fans are quick to update him on the race results.
“We’re all devoted to this,” Ableman said. “I’m really just the caretaker. The fans want this to happen.”
Rumor has it that Teddy won’t win until the Nats make the playoffs or the World Series.
And if that’s the case, then Teddy might be in for a bleak future: The Nats have finished last in the National League Eastern Division nearly every year since they came to Washington (the exception being 2007, when they finished second to last).
But, in the immortal words of Yankee great Yogi Berra, “It ain’t over till it’s over.”
Ableman said: “I know he’s going to win someday. All I know is I better be there when it finally happens.”
Teddy does love his fans, Davis said. And maybe this is the season when his luck finally changes.
“It’s cute how the fans rally around Teddy,” he said. “Maybe there will finally be enough support that he’ll actually dedicate himself to the cause they all believe in.”