For six seasons and more than 500 individual races, "Teddy" the racing president has not won a single race against "George," "Tom," and "Abe" during the Washington Nationals' famous fourth inning President's Race. The underdog mascot's efforts have been frustrated by his lack of athletic ability, injuries (pulled hamstring after pulled hamstring), and interference by other mascots, who have been known to tackle Teddy in his quest for victory. Teddy has also tried to use illegal performance enhancers, including a zipline, which resulted in his disqualification.
But rumors are now swirling that the parody of the spectacled 26th president could finally have his day in the sun. Whispers is hearing that the Nationals, who have already secured a playoff spot, are planning to have Teddy win the Presidents Race in the Nationals final regular season game next Wednesday.
Lara Potter, VP of Communications for the Nationals, coyly says of Teddy's chances: "You never know, anything could happen during the Presidents Race." When asked if the Presidents Race was rigged, Potter was sharper. "That's just something that I'm not going to comment on," she says.
Though the Nationals press office is staying mum about whether a Teddy victory is on the horizon, the team has already dropped some hints of a win.
This week, the Nationals named the final series the "TeddyIn2012" series. The team launched a hashtag #teddyin2012 on social media, and announced Teddy-themed giveaways—including Teddy eye black, bumper stickers and pins—for the final three games. An entirely Teddy-focused page was also created on the Nationals site.
Scott Ableman of the blog "Let Teddy Win," which spearheads the movement for a Teddy victory, tells Whispers the Nationals' Teddy-specific campaign "is definitely an indicator." "The Nationals are the ones who are preventing him from winning, so for them to start [this] campaign is pretty humorous," he says. Ableman says most people believe Teddy will win on a milestone game, and the last game of this season qualifies. "I know I need to be there," he says.
Last week, the mascot became national news after ESPN aired an eight-minute film narrated by prominent documentarian Ken Burns about why Teddy hasn't won a race. The video featured Arizona Republican Senator John McCain saying he wanted a congressional hearing on the issue. "It's one of the more traumatic experiences I've had... as I watch my childhood hero be treated in such a cavalier fashion," McCain told the camera in mock seriousness.
In response, the White House announced in a press briefing that President Barack Obama was jumping on the Teddy victory bandwagon.
This season is the Nationals' best since moving to D.C. from Montreal, and a Teddy victory would be a fitting gift for Nats fans.
Whispers is hearing, too, that a brand new racing president could be introduced next season, though no word on whether that president would replace Teddy or be added to the roster. Potter acknowledges that "there's going to be opportunities" for the Nationals "to change and get bigger and better" in the offseason, "and I believe that we would also look at the Presidents Race." Getting rid of Teddy, she says, is entirely out of the question.