While attending the Washington Nationals’ Opening Day on Thursday, I immediately collided with the team’s one tremendous success: its marketing of the mid-game Presidents’ Race. For those of you who have not enjoyed a game at Nationals Park, this involves four individuals wearing costumes with giant heads that dimly resemble Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and TR. They race in from the center field bullpen while the fans cheer mindlessly. (For those of you in Milwaukee, think “sausage race” during Brewers games.) It’s a great recognition of the town’s unique history and place as Capital of the Free World.
The genius part of the Presidents’ race, though, is that Teddy Roosevelt ALWAYS LOSES. Always. (Lincoln has the best won-loss record; must be the long legs.) Teddy didn’t even win on the day he seized a huge lead by starting on a zip line from the stadium’s roof. This has meant that many fans actually look forward to the race, happily wondering whether this will be the time Teddy wins.
But on Opening Day 2012, a new, even more brilliant prospect arose in a conversation between an usher and my friend, Power Lawyer and Power Swimmer Jim Clifford. Shaking his head, the usher said that the team may have to send Teddy down to the minors for a while. They then would bring up James Madison to make the races more competitive!
Upon hearing the news, my heart leapt up. Having embarked on my next historical work about Madison, I have found myself describing him as the Zelig of the Founding Era, always there and always doing the heavy lifting, but often ignored in favor of others who were more charismatic and (not coincidentally) much taller. At last, a potential moment of popular recognition for Little Jemmy, whose slight stature was noted even by his future wife, Dolley, who called him “The Great Little Madison”! Imagine how the fans’ loyalties would be engaged by the spectacle of a the hard-charging Madison, half-a-giant-head shorter than the others, legs churning madly to get ahead. Knowing Madison (as I am coming to), he would probably propose to rewrite the rules of the race, anyway.
And what about Teddy? Well, a few weeks or months with the Triple-A club in Syracuse couldn’t hurt him. He could build attendance down there, work out with 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper, and then the two of them can return triumphantly to Nationals Park in June or so.
So start your petition drives, the social media campaigns! It’s time for the Little Man to get his shot at The Show.