The Carolina Panthers beat the Washington Redskins, 21-13, on Sunday afternoon at Washington D.C.'s FedEx Field. and if a "Redskins Rule" discovered by one statistician years ago holds true, it's very good news for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.
Steve Hirdt is the executive vice-president of the Elias Sports Bureau, and he's worked on the "Monday Night Football" staff longer than anybody else -- a total of 31 years. As the show's director of information, it's Hirdt's job to come up with interesting statistical tidbits for the show's announcers to throw out there. On Oct. 30, 2000. Hirdt was in a Washington, D.C., hotel room, preparing for the upcoming MNF matchup between the Washington Redskins and Tennessee Titans. He was hoping to find something specifically interesting for color commentator Dennis Miller to discuss with the presidential election coming up on Nov. 7.
Quite by accident, he discovered a "Redskins Rule" that has proved to be just about flawless over the last 18 such elections, and one that will come into play when the Redskins face the Carolina Panthers this Sunday -- just two days before Election Day.
"I started looking through the Redskins' press guide where they list all the scores in the back," Hirdt said, via ESPN. "I was making a list of the last home game before the election because that was the game we were covering. I tried to align it with the Democrats or the Republicans and then looked at the incumbents.
"I was shocked to see it lined up exactly right, that whenever the Redskins won their last home game prior to the presidential election, the incumbent party retained the White House, and whenever the Redskins lost their last home game prior to the election, the out-of-power party won the White House."
The rule held fast for the 15 presidential elections from 1940 through 1996. 1940 was the first time the Redskins played in the nation's capitol after moving from Boston in 1937. With 15 straight success. Hirdt knew he was on to something. He brought the information to play-by-play man Al Michaels, who convinced MNF producer Don Ohlmeyer to run the "Redskins Rule" as a full-screen graphic during the game. The Titans beat the Redskins, 27-21 that evening, which would signal a victory for the party not previously elected. That happened when George W. Bush defeated Al Gore in an election that took an extra 37 days and a Supreme Court ruling to sort out, due to several voting controversies.
Regardless, the rule held fast. In the 2004 election, however, Bush was re-elected in a bit of history that forced Hirdt to re-jigger the tradition. The Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers, which would seem to put an end to the trend.
Not so fast -- there was an advanced statistician at work here.
"I went back and studied the 'Redskins Rule' data and what happened in 2004 was explained in 2000," Hirdt said. "Because Al Gore actually won the popular vote in 2000 — but lost in the Electoral College — it reversed the polarity of the subsequent election. The opposite of the usual 'Redskins Rule' was true."
Thus, the following revision:
"Redskins Rule 2.0 established that when the popular vote winner does not win the election, the impact of the Redskins game on the subsequent presidential election gets flipped. So, with that, the Redskins' loss in 2004 signaled that the incumbent would remain in the White House."
Hirdt didn't have to perform any stat magic in 2008, as the Redskins lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers on the eve of the election, and Barack Obama changed the party in the White House by beating John McCain.
So, based on Hirdt's research (and one sabermetric escape clause), Sunday's results mean that Romney will win outright on Tuesday, or that Obama will have to lose the popular vote and still take the Electoral College.
Of course, we can't prove correlation to causation here, but it does add a bit of intrigue to the mix. Would that we had such extra juice for all NFL games, especially the snore-fests.
"Everybody likes coincidences and streaks, especially in the sports world. It's been fun to talk about and I'm glad I found it," Hirdt concluded. "I'm kind of resigned to the fact that the 'Redskins Rule' will probably be on the second or third paragraph of my obituary ... whenever that may be."
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