Washington Nationals: FDR Should Join Mascot Rotation

rjuckett
Oct 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals racing presidents mascot Theodore Roosevelt tries to fire up the crowd in the 13th inning against the San Francisco Giants in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 4, 2014; Washington, DC, USA; Washington Nationals racing presidents mascot Theodore Roosevelt tries to fire up the crowd in the 13th inning against the San Francisco Giants in game two of the 2014 NLDS playoff baseball game at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports /
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Franklin Delano Roosevelt will not join the parade of Washington Nationals mascots. A decision worthy of some more thought.

The Washington Nationals are king of the mascot races.

Since the team started in 2005, four “presidents” race along to the first base side of foul territory to the excitement of fans of all ages. Four cartoonish mascots of George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt—the loveable loser of most races—Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson run most nights in the middle part of the game.

The last couple years, through coordination of the White House Historical Association, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover have joined the fun. Each character lasted one year before “retiring” to the new Spring Training complex in West Palm Beach.

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Next on the list for 2017 is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, President of the United States from 1933 through 1945. According to The Washington Post, for logistical reasons and a tepid response from the family, there will be no FDR mascot.

If the Roosevelt family is skittish about linking a historical figure with a tremendous film and sound archive with a baseball team, you can understand that. Can you really see a Dwight Eisenhower or John Kennedy mascot running in the race? Jimmy Carter, a huge Atlanta Braves fan, would look different sporting the colors of the Washington Nationals.

If the Roosevelt family felt uncomfortable with how FDR would be portrayed with his disability that is another story.

Struck with polio in the 1920s, Roosevelt largely hid his paralysis from public view. Confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life, only one picture exists of him in it. The White House press corps strictly forbidden to mention or photograph him in it.

At the time, hiding such an impressive frailty needed to happen. He would never get elected, nor able to help steer the Second World War if his opponents and enemies knew how fragile he was. By playing a charade, he added to his strength, using his full ability between the ears to guide the country through such perilous times.

To this day, how he should look remains controversial. His memorial, subject to years of delays, has him sitting in his chair.

If it is the chair the family is queasy about, and they have every right to be, perhaps indulge me in a few thoughts.

Sports can be a great equalizer. Most nights, rooting for your favorite team is a positive and constructive experience. Imagine the confidence boost of a kid in a wheelchair watching that on television or Nationals Park. As a child who grew up with severe birth defects, it would have wowed me to no end to see FDR and his polio treated as normal and commonplace.

It is a small gesture for sure, but if the family thinks people will feel different about the true FDR, then balance that with what it could mean for someone who feels horrible about their bodies.

FDR swam often at Warm Springs, Georgia with children suffering from polio in front of the newsreel cameras of the day. He knew what it meant for them and their future.

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Yes, I know this is presumptuous on my part but, part of me thinks he would be thrilled if anyone watches his mascot and feels better about themselves seeing him win or lose. As a kid, I know I would.

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