The “running” narrative at the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace is TR’s determination and fortitude to overcome his sickly childhood to embrace the strenuous life, becoming an avid outdoorsman and who is basically the patron saint for the National Park Service.
So as we prepared to part ways with our tour guide Ranger Russell, I had a little trepidation in bringing up the situation at the Washington Nationals baseball stadium where, at the time we visited, the Theodore Roosevelt mascot had yet to win a single race against the other presidents (Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln, at that time).
In fact there was a campaign to “Let Teddy Win,” which I knew would probably offend the Roosevelt supporters who clearly told us that he did not like the name “Teddy,” and who clearly saw him (and he probably saw himself) as a example of how exercise and activity makes one stronger. Come on, TR played football at Harvard and led the Rough Riders, no one needed to “let him” win.
So when I “gently” asked their opinion about this mascot race, the ranger behind the desk immediately shot back, “TR could take any president in a footrace!”
Now that’s not something you hear every day. So that got me thinking: who would really win in presidential footrace?
I once saw Washington described as a “hunk,” over six feet tall with a strong physique. John Adams, probably not. Jefferson, maybe too bookish? Madison, shortest president, probably had short legs. Lincoln – too tall and gangly? (although he is in the Wrestling Hall of Fame). TR? It may depend on his age when the race takes place. Looking at recent modern presidents, I thought about Gerald Ford who was offered two pro football contracts or George H.W. Bush (41) who was a baseball player at Yale.
I think one of the challenges of this mental exercise on presidential physical exercise comes down to the parameters of the race: what distance and at what point in their lives would they run? Would some presidents have an advantage in a sprint? Would others be better at a longer distance or cross country? Should it be at the age they took office? That certainly thins the field. Or should we pick an age such as 18 when we pit all the presidents against one another? What do you think?
President Obama recently met the Nats mascots and boasted on Twitter that he challenged them to a race. I bet they would let him win.
To be honest, when I first saw the presidential mascots racing at Nationals Stadium, I was a bit taken back. These were real people, national leaders who endured some very great tragedies and brought our nation through some very trying times – now they are oversized bobbled heads running through a baseball stadium between innings for our amusement? Isn’t this somewhat disrespectful?
However, I soon embraced the fun and the clever way the Nats work in some presidential facts into the mascots’ marketing. In fact, I was then on a quest to get pictures of these oversized heads of state. I appreciate that this race get some people interested in our presidents. Mascot merchandise comes with presidential facts, and there’s presidential information in the Nats program.
So which president do I root for when I attend a Nats game? How can I choose?
In the next post, I tell you how a rain delay sent us on a presidential scavenger hunt through Nationals Stadium.
Only a true history nerd would discuss which president would win a footrace (I’m going with AL, with GW as a close second).
The Roosevelts PBS series left me a little anti-TR. He just came off as very unlikable, at least to me. I’d be interested in hearing the TR fan narrative at the birthplace.
Yes. I am a true history nerd. As for TR (as with all the presidents), I try to remember that they are complicated people and give them the benefit of the doubt. That’s why I like visiting their houses because, even with some of our “worst” presidents, learning more about them sometimes puts their decisions and personalities into context.