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Winning Tradition

Claim:   The outcome of Washington Redskins home football games has correctly predicted the winner of every U.S. presidential election since 1936.

OUTDATED

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, November 2012]

Did you know....??

The Washington Redskins have proved to be a time-tested election predictor. In the previous 15 elections, if the Washington Redskins have lost their last home game prior to the election, the incumbent party has lost the White House. When they have won, the incumbent has stayed in power.

This election year, that deciding game takes place on Sunday, October 31 ... vs. Green Bay.

Go Pack!!!
 

Origins:   Our desire to understand and assert some control over the world around us is often manifested by our attempts to find predictive signs that enable us to prognosticate events — even when there is no seeming connection between predictor and event. Sometimes one natural phenomenon supposedly forecasts another, as in the belief that a Vote groundhog's seeing his shadow on February 2 portends another six weeks of winter. In other instances the linkage is between affairs of mankind, as in the superstition that the winner of football's Super Bowl augurs that year's stock market performance (or vice-versa).

One item of this ilk which gained currency in 2004 maintained that the results of the last game played at home by the NFL's Redskins (a football team based in the national capital, Washington, D.C.) before a U.S. presidential election foretold the winner of that contest. If the Redskins won their last home game before the election, the party that occupied the White House continued to hold it; if the Redskins lost that last home game, the challenger from the out-of-office party unseated the incumbent party. And up until that 2004 election, the Redskins indicator had a rather remarkable record: Since 1936, the earliest
presidential election year in which the current Redskins franchise played under that team name, the team's results had currently predicted the outcome of 17 straight presidential contests.

Reality finally trumped coincidence in 2004, however: Despite the Green Bay Packers' 28-14 defeat of the Redskins at the latter's home field on 31 October, presaging a victory for Democratic challenger John Kerry in upcoming the presidential election, two days later incumbent President George W. Bush was re-elected, breaking the Redskins' predictive pattern. The Redskins indicator failed again in 2012 as Washington suffered a 21-13 home loss at the hands of the Carolina Panthers on 4 November 2012, just two days before that year's election, but Republican nominee Mitt Romney failed to unseat incumbent president Barack Obama.

While we don't presume there is anything more behind the phenomenon than random correlation, the Redskins indicator can still boast an accuracy rate of 90% with 18 correct matches out of the last 20 elections:
  • After stumbling in 2004, the Redskins' power as election predictors got back on track in 2008. In a Monday night game contested on 3 November 2008, the evening before Election Day, the Redskins were defeated at home, 23-6, by the Pittsburgh Steelers, a loss that foretold a change in party which would bring the Democratic candidate into the White House. The following day, the Democratic presidential candidate, Senator Barack Obama, defeated the Republican presidential candidate, Senator John McCain, for the White House.
  • On 30 October 2000 the Washington Redskins lost a Monday night game at home to the Tennessee Titans, 27-21, presaging a loss for the incumbent Democratic party. Since President Bill Clinton had already been elected to the constitutionally-mandated maximum of two terms in office, the 7 November 2000 presidential election pitted Democratic Vice-President Al Gore against Republican Governor George W. Bush of Texas. In the closest (and most controversial) presidential election since 1876, Governor Bush gained the White House by the slim margin of five electoral votes, thereby fulfilling the Redskin prophecy.
  • On 27 October 1996 the Washington Redskins defeated the Indianapolis Colts at home, 31-16, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. Sure enough, in the 5 November 1996 general election, Democratic President Bill Clinton won re-election over his Republican challenger, Senator Bob Dole of Kansas.
  • On 1 November 1992 the Washington Redskins lost to the New York Giants at home, 24-7, predicting a similar loss for the incumbent Republicans. As expected, in the 3 November 1992, Republican President George H. W. Bush lost his re-election bid to Governor Bill Clinton of Arkansas.
  • On 6 November 1988 the Washington Redskins edged the New Orleans Saints at home, 27-24, predicting a win for the incumbent Republicans. As President Ronald Reagan had already been elected twice, the 8 November 1988 election once again matched a sitting Vice-President, Republican George H. W. Bush, against a challenger, Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts. True to form, Vice-President Bush emerged victorious.
  • On 5 November 1984 the Washington Redskins bested the Atlanta Falcons in a Monday night home game, 27-14, predicting a win for the incumbent Republicans. The next day, President Ronald Reagan handily defeated his Democratic challenger, former Vice-President and Senator Walter F. Mondale of Minnesota, winning re-election with an electoral vote landslide.
  • On 2 November 1980 the Washington Redskins were trounced at home by the Minnesota Vikings, 39-14, predicting a loss for the incumbent Democrats. As expected, on 4 November 1980 President Jimmy Carter failed in his re-election bid, losing to his Republican opponent, former California governor Ronald Reagan.
  • On 31 October 1976 the Washington Redskins were spooked by the Dallas Cowboys in a Halloween Day home game, losing 20-7 and predicting a loss for the incumbent Republicans. Two days later, on 2 November 1976, Democratic Governor Jimmy Carter of Georgia unseated President Gerald Ford (who had been appointed Vice-President after the resignation of Spiro Agnew in 1973 and became chief executive in 1974 after President Richard Nixon also resigned).
  • On 22 October 1972 the Washington Redskins edged the Dallas Cowboys, 24-20, predicting a win for the incumbent Republicans. The 7 November 1972 election resulted in the electoral vote landslide re-election of President Richard Nixon over the Democratic nominee, Senator George McGovern of South Dakota.
  • On 27 October 1968 the Washington Redskins lost a close game to the New York Giants, 13-10, predicting a loss for the incumbent Democrats. Since President Lyndon B. Johnson had announced several months earlier that he would not seek another term as president, the November 1968 election was a contest between sitting Vice-President Hubert Humphrey and a former Vice-President, Republican Richard Nixon. In a mirror of the Redskins game, the Democrats lost in a close contest (the two candidates were separated by a slim 0.6% margin in the popular vote).
  • On 25 October 1964 the Washington Redskins beat the Chicago Bears, 27-20, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. As predicted, on 3 November 1964 President Lyndon Johnson (who had ascended to the White House after the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963) won a landslide victory over Republican Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona.
  • On 30 October 1960 the Washington Redskins were pasted at home by the Cleveland Browns, 31-10, predicting a loss for the incumbent Republicans. President Dwight D. Eisenhower had already served two terms, so Vice-President Richard Nixon took up the Republican mantle against Senator John F. Kennedy of Massachusetts in the 8 November 1960 presidential election. Like the Redskins, the Republicans lost; unlike the Redskins, the Republicans made the contest a very close one. (Kennedy bested Nixon by a mere 0.2% margin in the popular vote.)
  • On 21 October 1956 the Washington Redskins soundly defeated the Cleveland Browns at home, 20-9, predicting a win for the incumbent Republicans on 6 November 1956. And, for the second straight election, the Republicans and their standard-bearer, Dwight D. Eisenhower, prevailed over the Democratic nominee, Adlai Stevenson.
  • On 2 November 1952 the Washington Redskins lost a squeaker to the Pittsburgh Steelers at home, 24-23, predicting a similar loss for the incumbent Democrats. President Harry S. Truman declined to run for re-election (he had already served eight years), leaving the field open for former Illinois governor Adlai Stevenson to stand against the Republican candidate, General Dwight D. Eisenhower. The Democrats' loss on 4 November 1952 was not nearly as close as the Redskins' had been.
  • On 31 October 1948, the Washington Redskins walloped the Boston Yanks at home, 59-21, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. Two days later, In one of the most stunning political upsets in U.S. history, President Harry S. Truman (who had assumed office in 1945 when President Franklin D. Roosevelt died shortly after beginning his fourth term) defeated his Republican challenger, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York.
  • On 5 November 1944, the Washington Redskins trimmed the Cleveland Rams at home, 14-10, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. And win the Democrats did, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt secured an unprecedented fourth term by defeating the Republican nominee, Thomas Dewey, on 7 November 1944.
  • On 3 November 1940, the Washington Redskins thrashed the Pittsburgh Pirates (forebears of today's Steelers team) at home, 37-10, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. Likewise, Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first (and only) three-term president as he thrashed Republican challenger Wendell Willkie of New York (a former Democrat who had never held high elected office) on 5 November 1940.
  • Going back to 1936 puts us beyond the beginnings of the Washington Redskins, as that year the Redskins franchise was still playing in Boston. Nonetheless, their knack for foretelling the outcome of presidential elections was already in place. On 1 November 1936 the Boston Redskins downed the Chicago Cardinals at Fenway Park, 13-10, predicting a win for the incumbent Democrats. Two days later, President Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election over Republican Governor Alf Landon of Kansas.
That is as far back as the streak goes. In 1932 the Washington Redskins were neither the Redskins nor a Washington team: they were the Boston Braves, and they played in Braves Field, which they shared with the National League baseball team of the same name. On 6 November 1932 they won at home against the Staten Island Stapletons, 19-6, a result that should have foretold a presidential victory for the incumbent Republican party. Neither the Redskins' team name nor their predictive powers were yet evident, however, as President Herbert Hoover lost to his Democratic challenger, Governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt of New York, on 8 November 1932.

Sightings:   This Redskins home game election predictor was mentioned in an episode of the AMC television drama Mad Men ("The Wheel," original air date 18 October 2007):



Last updated:   7 November 2012

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Sources:

    Bikoff, Ken.   "Coincidence or Something More?"
    Pro Football Weekly.   29 October 2004.