Election to be Decided Sunday
This makes about as much sense as having the Supreme COurt decide. As much as I am a Skins (and of anyone playing Dallas) fan from way back, I pray to God the lose. BTW, the fallacy is technically a "post hoc ergo proctor hoc" fallacy, latin for "after it, therefore because of it" -- Ed.
We now rejoin the election, already in progress.
And, as teased here these last two days, we might be told Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, or not until January 15th, but, if history holds, we will know by around 4 p.m. EST Sunday who will be president next year. There are many irrelevant indicators out there on which to hang a forecast (the NASCAR dads, the stock market, Robert Novak), but to my knowledge only one logical fallacy has stood the test of time. So here goes.
By definition, the logical fallacy, of course is simply this: Event A occurs. Then Event B occurs. Therefore, Event A caused Event B. Obviously, it's simply not true. Nonetheless, when the presidential election is this close, we look for anything and everything that might predict the outcome— whether common-sense or logically fallacious.
And as logical fallacies go, we are privileged to have a doozy, one that seems to have correctly predicted the last seventeen Presidential Elections.
Terror? The economy? The incumbent's final rating in the Gallup poll? Turnout in Ohio?
It's the Washington Redskins.
The football team with the politically incorrect name has been anything but incorrect in presaging which party will win the White House. The franchise began its life in Boston in 1932, when George Preston Marshall bought a dormant team that had gone belly-up in Newark. Originally named after the baseball team in town— the Braves— they were re-christened the Redskins in 1933, and thus it would not be until November 1st, 1936, that the 'Skins played their first game during an election season.
In their last game home before the vote, the Boston Redskins beat the Chicago Cardinals 13 to 10. And two days later, Franklin Roosevelt was reelected president. By the time FDR ran again in 1940, Marshall had moved the Redskins to Griffith Stadium in Washington. And, again, in their last home game before that election, the Redskins beat Pittsburgh 37-10, and Roosevelt was returned to office.
On November 5th, 1944, it was Cleveland at Washington. Redskins won 14-10. Two days later, Roosevelt was re-re-reelected. And four years later, they repeated the trick, preceding Harry Truman's unexpected holding of the White House for the Democrats. The Redskins were now 4-0 in their "election day games"— and so were the Democrats.
But on November 2nd, 1952, the Redskins, in their last home game before the vote, lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers 24-23. And days later, Democrat Adlai Stevenson lost the presidency to Dwight Eisenhower. In '56, it was a pre-election home victory for Washington, and a re-election for Ike.
And in 1960, the tanking Redskins were clobbered in that last home game before the vote, by Cleveland, by 21 points. Nine days later, it was John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon, by about 21 votes. And by now, the pattern had emerged. If the Redskins won their final home game before a presidential election, the incumbent party kept the White House. If the Redskins lost that game, so did the party in power.
And this, remarkably, has held up:
1964: Skins 27, Bears 20. Lyndon Johnson retains the office.
1968: Washington loses the last home game before the vote, to the New York Giants. The Democrats fall out of power, in favor of Richard Nixon
1972: Skins win; so does Nixon.
1976: Washington loses to Dallas; Republican Gerald Ford loses to Democrat Jimmy Carter.
1980: They lose again; Carter loses to Republican Ronald Reagan.
1984: Washington wins, Reagan wins again.
1988: Washington wins, George W. Bush wins.
1992: Washington loses to the Giants 24 to 7, and the incumbent party is bounced again: Bush out, Clinton in.
1996: Clinton's re-election is foretold: the Redskins win their final home game before the vote, against Indianapolis.
Going into the Bush-Gore race of 2000, the outcome of Washington's last home game before the election had coincided perfectly for 16 consecutive games, and 16 consecutive elections: 10 Redskins wins, each of which is followed by the incumbent president and/or party retaining the office, and six Redskins losses, each of which is followed by the incumbent president and/or party losing the office.
On October 30th, 2000, the Washington Redskins, with, to that point, 6 victories and 2 losses, hosted the Tennessee Titans, who had 6 victories and 1 loss. In betting circles it was a virtual toss-up, with a slight edge to Washington because it was playing at home. The Redskins scored first and led 7-0, giving an early hint that the Democrats would retain the White House. But Tennessee rallied to go in front 20-7, and hold on for a 27-21 win. It's a six-point victory, and, six weeks later, a five-electoral-vote victory for George W. Bush— of the party that had been out of office, the Republicans.
Now it would be really spooky if those 17 games had all surprises, upsets as they call them. I was disappointed to find, after having gone back and calculated won-lost records and intangibles, that, in fact, all but three times the Redskins were favored to win and did, or they were expected to lose and did. Then again, how many elections in that same span have really been upsets? Truman, anecdotally if not truly; maybe Reagan over Carter, probably Bush over Gore— and no, the Redskins' game upsets do not perfectly coincide with the election upsets.
Still, it's some streak. The Redskins have played home games before 17 Presidential Elections, and only 17 Presidential Elections, and their results have easily and without qualification forecast the outcomes of all 17.
And now for the 64-billion dollar question. When is/was the Redskins' last game before this year's election? The one in which the prophecy says, if they win, George Bush is re-elected, and, if they lose, John Kerry takes office? It's Sunday, against the Green Bay Packers, who've won two in a row. Who play in Lambeau Field— which Senator Kerry infamously misidentified earlier in the campaign as Lambert Field. The Redskins, meanwhile, have already suffered a four-game losing streak and found that the return of Coach Joe Gibbs (himself a NASCAR owner and presumably a NASCAR dad) has not been the panacea Washington sports fans always expect as if it was an unfunded federal mandate.
Oddsmakers favor Green Bay by two or two-and-a-half points, which, as any politician— or football gambler— can tell you, is well inside the margin of error.
But this is an ironclad sports tradition:
Skins win, incumbents stay in;
Skins lose, incumbents are old news.
An ironclad sports tradition, just like the fact that in 122 years of post-season competition, no baseball team has ever come back from down three-nothing to win a playoff series.
Oh, wait— didn't somebody just do that?
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