I figure it has to be a president that served prior to at least Lyndon Johnson, otherwise politics might taint the enjoyment of the race. You don’t want to hear comments from people saying things like “Carter won’t win the foot race- he runs away from everything. Remember how the Iran hostage fiasco?” Also, as much fun as it would be to hear what people would say during the race if George W. Bush or Bill Clinton were the new mascot, it isn’t going to happen, at least not for another 30 years. Nor will it be Kennedy, because few things spoil the mood of a game like assassinations. It won’t be Eisenhower or Truman either. They are probably still too recent and their cloths look too modern- who wants to run a race wearing a boring old suit? Nope, I figure it has to be someone much further back; someone who might wear britches or have a wig, or at least odd looking facial hair.It will have to be someone distinctive in appearance so people can tell who it is from a distance. That’s why it won’t be someone non-descript like Millard Fillmore, James K. Polk or Warren G. Harding. Martin Van Buren, John Quincy Adams and Chester A. Arthur had some glorious muttonchops and would certainly make hilarious looking mascots. You could definitely tell it was Van Buren standing next to Lincoln at the starting line. Of course, funny looks isn’t enough cement a selection. I would hope that accomplishment also plays a part in it. You want someone that kids could respect if they decided to research their favorite racing president. That would rule out Arthur and Van Buren, and Fillmore, Polk and Harding are once again ousted, to say nothing of “do-nothing” presidents like Buchanan and Tyler.
My hope is that it turns out to be someone interesting looking, with a strong personality and record of accomplishments. I would be thrilled if Andrew Jackson made it in. He was a cool president- very dynamic and he had a lot of successes. My only fear is that he looks a bit too much like Washington and Jefferson so management at the Nationals would pass him over in favor of someone slightly less deserving. If that is the case, then consider Woodrow Wilson. Yes, he is a suited president but it’s a pin-striped suit and he would have glasses. That should count in his favor. Barring that, my last two choices would be Grover Cleveland, because he is a real character and has a distinct look, or perhaps Ulysses Grant. Imagine what fun it would be for the Nationals to have a bearded, besotted military man running around on the field? Comedic gold!I have not mentioned the most important remaining president as a contender though. Franklin D. Roosevelt is certainly historically worthy and has a look that would convey well, like the Penguin from Batman comics, or Mr. Moneybags from Monopoly. The problem is that he is wheelchair bound. It would be a bit hard for a mascot to push a wheelchair on the grass of the ball field. Yeah, it might be inspirational to show a handicapped person competing but logistically it would be hard to do. Besides, this is supposed to be a foot race. Aside from the obese William Howard Taft, FDR is the least likely president to be involved in a foot race.
Now I am relaxing here on a Sunday afternoon and reading the Sunday paper. As I flip though the various sections I come to the sports section and see a giant head and white mustache and realize I’m looking at the new mascot. I look at the caption and see that it is…. William F’ing Taft? How am I supposed believe that this rotund, 300 plus pound President can walk around National park, much less run? More importantly, Taft prevented Teddy from getting a third term as president. Roosevelt had handpicked Taft as his successor and did not seek a third consecutive term so Taft easily got into office, based on Teddy’s endorsement. When Roosevelt decided to run in the next election, Taft did not step aside for him in return. Instead, they split the Republican vote and Taft got the nomination and forced Teddy to run as a third party candidate. In the election, Roosevelt got 27% of the vote compared to Taft’s 25% while Woodrow Wilson won with just 41% of the vote. Had Taft let TR get the nomination, Teddy would have won. Man, I feel myself hating on Taft just from discussing this. No way would I ever root for him during a ballgame.
So did Taft get selected mainly to be a foil to Teddy? Jefferson and Washington didn’t have any beef with each other but Taft and TR did. So now Teddy can win against his bitter rival? Or is there additional considerations? Maybe they will use Taft as a spoke-person against obesity? (“Kids, if you don’t watch what you eat, you’ll be overweight like me and never win a foot race.”) Based on the picture though, Taft is looking kinda trim- he doesn’t look portly at all. In fact, he looks stern and dangerous. Which is what I wanted to see in a mascot but I wanted it to be the look for Andrew Jackson. Instead of “Old Hickory”, I get “Old Softy”? I’ll see how it plays out during the races but just know now that I will always be rooting for either Teddy or Old Abe, never for the roly-poly back-stabbing Taft. Let the races begin! In…, um, three more months.