It is safe to say that most Americans have wondered what it’s like to be the president of the United States. I’m here to tell you that it’s hell on the back and shoulders.
In fact, I was ready to tender my resignation about 20 minutes after I put on the large Styrofoam suit at Thursday’s Nationals game against the Philadelpha Phillies. The Presidents Race – a sprint between four people dressed up in massive costumes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt – has become a phenomenon of sorts at Nationals Park, and running in it is one of the highest honors in the land.
So when I was lucky enough to be asked to participate by a friend who works for the Nationals, I was humbled and elated. My motivation was not to act out some longtime fantasy of being one of the four most influential presidents in our nation’s history. Rather, it was the chance for me to act out a longer-held fantasy of being on a major league baseball field.
Given my height, weight and general lack of athletic ability, this was probably the only way I was ever going to get on major league turf without having to run from chasing security officers. Over the past two decades, my dream becoming a big leaguer had faded – but had not died. This was my chance to salvage what was left.
After a brief orientation, fellow GW senior Dan Malin and I suited up for the pre-game photo-op. Dan was lucky enough to represent the school as George Washington himself, while I embodied our rough-riding and bespectacled 26th commander-in-chief, Teddy Roosevelt, who has never won a Presidents Race for reasons I’ll get to later.
Once we got our suits on, the Nationals staff told us the 45-minute “meet and greet” would be nothing strenuous, which was easy for them to say. If I had to venture a guess, I would say the entire rig weighed about 40 pounds, most of which was situated a meter above our heads and resting squarely on our necks. The peripheral visibility was akin to looking through a mesh-covered hole the size of an envelope. And there is no way of knowing exactly how hot it was in that suit, probably because any thermometer would have melted inside.
Shortly before the race, I was offered a chance to switch into the Thomas Jefferson suit, a chance I jumped at. He was much easier to run in and had far better visibility. Yet, from my time in Teddy I realized the plight of Roosevelt is not an elaborate conspiracy, like many claim it is. Rather, the reason that Teddy has never won in the history of the Nationals Presidents Race is because the suit’s design makes it practically impossible.
As the center-field gate opened and we were let loose, I heard the crowd scream and I felt the onslaught of adrenaline brought on by my Major League Baseball debut. But as I rounded the warning track on the right-field wall, I was overcome by a moment of sheer terror as I felt the belt that secured the costume to my waist pop, and the rig began to tip to the side. At that moment, I not only feared for my safety but also that some poor kid at his first baseball game would see our third president decapitated under the weight of his own cranium. Thankfully, I reached up to grab my head in time, righting it just in time to see the other racers blow past me. I finished dead last, but at least I finished. I keep telling myself that’s what counts.
So for the all the politically inclined GW students who dream of one day becoming president, I have one piece of advice: hit the gym.