Friday, September 28, 2007

Nationals Presidents Race, I Salute You with a big Let Teddy Win!

Presidents Race, you say? Well, if you haven't been to a Washington Nationals game since July, 2006, then you'll have no idea what I'm talking about, so all you non baseball loving folks can skip this post.

(Skip to what I have no idea, because there isn't exactly a torrent of posts on my blog. This is the first post in over 7 months. I have no readers, nor do I really want them. Oh well, I digress.)

The Presidents Race takes place at Washington Nationals home games, in the middle of the 4th inning. Nationals staffers dressed as Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, and Thomas Jefferson enter from behind the right field bleachers and race towards home plate, where a temporary finish line is held up by somebody in a Gecko costume (because the Presidents Race is now sponsored by Geico, the insurance company). My son, who was 11 years old and at the game with me when the Washington Nationals introduced the live Presidents Race in July 2006, absolutely loved it.

I took this photo of the racing presidents from above the 3rd base dugout at RFK Stadium, as the presidents started their dash to the finish line.
A cute thing for the kids, but nothing too too original, right? Sure, a presidents race could be uniquely associated with Washington, but Milwaukee has had the racing sausages forever, closer to home Baltimore has the ketchup & mustard race, and minor league baseball teams have been doing this sort of thing for decades. That was my initial reaction.
Then, soon after the Presidents Race had been introduced, I met a Nationals employee and asked him the question that had been burning in my son's head. "Do you decide in advance who's going to win?, I asked." His answer was surprising and illuminating. "We don't decide in advance," he said. "The only rule is that Teddy can't win."
I had to admit I hadn't remembered a Teddy victory to that point. My first reaction was that this was hilarious. A novelty. I have since realized that it was an utterly brilliant marketing decision.

"We don't decide in advance," he said.
"The only rule is that Teddy can't win."

For quite some time, the notion that Teddy never wins was like a little inside joke for me and my son. At Nationals games, we'd share this little tidbit with fans seated near us during the presidents race, always to their surprise, and as if it were secret inside information.
By the end of the 2006 season, Nationals season ticket holders had figured it out, and the presidents race began to be occassionally greeted by a chear of "Teddy! Teddy!" scattered throughout RFK Stadium.
For 2007, in it's first full season under ownership of the Lerner family, the Washington Nationals marketing organization started to really leverage what they had created. On opening day, the presidents race started without Teddy Roosevelt, but he entered late to pass the field via a zip line from atop the stadium roof. His dramatic entrance led to a disqualification, but set the stage for the season that was to come. With each presidents race, Teddy Roosevelt found a more and more dramatic way to lose, yet the streak continued. With the Nationals baseball team off to a horrific 9-23 start by mid-May, the crowds and the media both adopted Teddy Roosevelt as their hero.
The Teddy fever peaked late in the season on September 1, which was Teddy Roosevelt bobblehead night. Fans and reporters speculated that this would be the big night that Teddy Roosevelt won the presidents race. After all, fake secret service agents had previously been on hand to help George, Abe, and Thomas win the presidents race on each of their bobblehead nights. The cheers for Teddy were louder than any noise made by the fans at any point in the game (including the booing when Barry Bonds stepped to the plate). Alas, it was not to be. Teddy fell off the throne he'd been carried in on, and lost the race to George Washington in a sprint to the finish.
Let Teddy Win in 2008!

Call me crazy, but at a certain point in the 2007 Nationals season I decided I was going to adopt Teddy Roosevelt as a personal cause. Not to take anything away from the baseball team (because I love the Nationals), but even the most inspired play by a young but talent-starved team with a losing record and no history is going to have limited mass appeal. While Stan Kasten, Jim Bowden, and Manny Acta are busy trying to assemble the 2011 World Series champions, Teddy Roosevelt and the endless quest to win the presidents race are the best story in town, and the first real opportunity we have as a fan base to establish our own unique tradition. Even if the Nats get off to a rocky start again in 2008, Teddy can still help pack 'em into the new ballpark.

So, in keeping with the great history of fan-generated major league baseball traditions, I registered, to help build support by Nationals fans for Teddy Roosevelt in his quest to win the presidents race. For the time being, I have set up a shop at CafePress where you can order Let Teddy Win t-shirts and I am pointing the domain name there.
I knew I was onto something when I registered the trademark, designed the first t-shirt, and within days got a notification that an order had been placed. I don't know how they found it, but it confirmed for me that the Teddy fans are out there.

CafePress is great for shirts and other goodies, and I will definitely keep it alive, but I'd like to add more sections to I have a lot of ideas and sketches of what can go on the site, but not being a programmer, I don't have a lot of resources to devote to it yet.
I could definitely see polls, standings, and discussions, plus some fun stuff for the presidents race campaign 2008, but am not sure I'm up for the task of moderation. If you have ideas, send them to

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