Packers part of the process?

Just a few days remain in what has been an extremely tight and contentious presidential race. Interested observers may want to take their eyes off the polls long enough to watch the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon in D.C.<p>

Is football just a way to take a break from election stress? Not exactly. Call it a trend or call it an urban myth, but either way there is no denying that the NFL has aligned perfectly with the presidential process over the past several decades.

For the entire history of the franchise since becoming the Washington Redskins -- 16 consecutive elections -- when the Redskins have lost their last home game before Election Day, the incumbent party has lost its grip on the White House. When the 'Skins win at home prior to voting, the incumbent party has stayed put.

The Packers figure into the mix this season as they travel to our nation's capital Sunday, two days before this hotly contested election, and try to change the balance of power -- in the NFC, not in the Oval Office!

Let's go back to the streak's humble beginnings. On Nov. 3, 1940, the Washington Redskins beat Pittsburgh (then the Pirates), 37-10. Two days later, incumbent Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first and only three-term president as he beat Republican nominee Wendell Wilkie in a similar landslide.

Fast-forward to the future, and the streak stands up in its most recent test. The 'Skins lost a close one on Oct. 30 to the Tennessee Titans, 27-21 on Monday Night Football. Almost a week later, voters went to the polls to choose between Democrat and incumbent VP Al Gore and Republic challenger George W. Bush. It took a couple of months and several courts to sort it out, but when the dust cleared and the Supreme Court halted the recount, the Democrats had lost the White House. Maybe Gore should have thrown the red replay flag.

In between, the correlation between the Redskins' home-game fortune and the fate of the incumbent party has held true -- every single time. Most of the margins are eerily similar as well. Some examples: In 1996 the Redskins waxed the Indianapolis Colts 31-16 at home. Likewise, Democratic incumbent Bill Clinton easily outdistanced Republican challenger Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas. Back in 1968 Washington lost a close game to the New York Giants, 13-10, predicting a loss for the incumbent Democrats. Sitting vice VP Hubert Humphrey lost to former Republican VP Richard Nixon by a mere 0.6 of the popular vote. In 1980 the Redskins suffered a 39-14 pasting at the hands of the Vikings. Two days later, President Jimmy Carter suffered an embarrassing loss to Republican challenger Ronald Reagan.

The last time the Redskins' final home game before a presidential election fell on Halloween, the year was 1976 and the candidates were the incumbent Republican Gerald Ford, running against a challenger who was then the governor of Georgia often lampooned by his opponents as a peanut farmer. The Redskins fell to the Cowboys 20-7, and Ford lost to the aforementioned peanut farmer and future Nobel Peace Prize winner Jimmy Carter.

That election, coinciding with a Halloween game, had other "spooky" elements. Ford was not elected president, but assumed the job when Nixon resigned in the wake of the Watergate scandal. Nixon's original VP Spiro Agnew had previously resigned the post, making way for Ford's appointment. Likewise, this election features the first U.S. president who did not arrive in the White House via the popular vote.

No magic formula is needed to come up with the correlation. The game and election results are, obviously, all a matter of easily-obtainable records.

Partisan politics aside, what does it all mean?

Nothing. That is, nothing more than black cats, broken mirrors and walking under ladders, and certainly nothing more than just a neat coincidence.

Packer coach Mike Sherman is more concerned about the game's effect on the NFC North standings than the rumored effect on the election.

"I don't put a whole lot of stock into it," Sherman said. "This is sports and that's politics, and they should never cross paths."

That's right, Nixon, known as a die-hard Redskins' fan, should not have submitted his embarrassing play-calling suggestions to the Redskins. And Mark Chmura should not have refused to join the Packers' championship team at Clinton's White House on moral grounds considering that a couple years later Chmura himself..... well, like Sherman said, sports and politics should never mix.


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