November 2, 2012
There's only one race in America that matters, and we have the exclusive on the winner:
It's Mitt Romney by a (Chia) head.
The much-anticipated head-to-head contest between the President Barack Obama Chia Head and the Mitt Romney Chia turned out to be no contest at all. Romney sprouted forth a full, lush greenfro, like some angry, big-haired Bob Dylan. But Obama's was measly and thin, a little on the George Jefferson side, a sad half-a-greenfro barely covering his fake terra cotta dome.
And through the magic of Chicago Tribune video — shot by veteran Tribune photographer E. Jason Wambsgans — you can see our unbiased political experiment unfold before your very eyes at chicagotribune.com/chia.
It's the most profound video on American politics you'll see this year, and the music could have been used on Ron Burgundy's newscasts.
"Something's wrong here," Wambsgans said. "I just can't figure it. The Obama head just doesn't hold water."
I should have listened to him, but I didn't.
The contest ran from Oct. 17 to Nov.1, with strobe-lit photos taken every half-hour. Some 1,250 photographs of the presidential scalps were shot to make the video.
Romney, campaigning Friday near Milwaukee, will no doubt be overjoyed by the news. And Obama, in Ohio, might need a cigarette if he finds out.
We didn't rely on polls because they can be manipulated. So instead we used Chia Heads of each candidate and set them on a shelf near the offices of the late Col. Robert R. McCormick, the legendary Tribune publisher, so they'd get plenty of equal sunlight. The big idea? Two heads enter, one head leaves.
But Wambsgans kept insisting something was amiss.
"I'm telling you," he said. "The Obama head just doesn't hold water."
Of course it doesn't, and neither do his wacky economic theories, but I had nothing to do with the outcome of this Chia contest. We'd already scrubbed one earlier head-to-head contest because Romney trounced Obama under questionable circumstances, and I wanted to demonstrate I could be fair.
I didn't even touch the heads. After the first Romney win, my former assistant, Shooter, scraped each head clean with a plastic knife, then planted them anew with Chia seeds and watered them faithfully each day. Then the new guy — who wants to be called Old School — took over.
Old School? With dreadlocks? What's so old school about that?
"I'm Old School in here," said Old School, tapping his chest over his heart. "Old School."
When Romney's head trounced Obama's for a second time, Shooter and Old School began pointing fingers at each other. Old School had heard that Shooter was a self-confessed plant killer, ruining every houseplant she ever touched, so much so that her husband finally broke down and just gave her a cactus.
"From the beginning, it was all Romney," Shooter said. "Ever since he started sprouting, Obama looked like he had a military buzz cut going on, whereas Romney had a Bozo the Clown 'do."
So Old School decided to make things even. "I noticed Obama's head was always emptier than Romney's," he said. "So I watered Obama's head even more."
And still he couldn't help Obama, causing Wambsgans to become even more suspicious.
"We'd refill (the heads) every day, but Obama was visibly dry and was failing to grow. I had a sneaking suspicion," Wambsgans said.
So without my knowledge, they sneaked into the Tribune test kitchen and filched some measuring cups. Then they filled the heads with water and dumped the contents into the cups. They found that Romney's head held about 200 milliliters of water more than Obama's. This, they said, was obvious proof of a political fix.
Of course, Old School carefully forgot to announce the fact that he'd been secretly refilling Obama's head in a futile attempt to make things even.
"It's clear Romney has an advantage over the president's smaller head," he insisted. "That's totally unfair."
What would you have poor Romney do, I cried. Cut off half of his Chia Head and give it to the Obama head to make things even? It's not Romney's fault that he has an exceptional greenfro.
Old School didn't answer because he was already on the phone with the owner of the Chia Pet empire, Joseph Pedott, a Chicago native born in the Wicker Park neighborhood. It didn't take long for Old School to blab his big "news" that the Chia contest was fixed.
"Oh, my gosh, I never knew that!" Pedott said. "I had no idea."
Really? It's your business, Joe.
Pedott said the contest between the two unequal heads, one large and full of liquid, and the other small and often dry, was no contest at all. He thanked Old School and Wambsgans for their detective work.
"I'm glad it turned out that way," Pedott said. "They should have really been the same, but if one has more water, I can understand why one would grow more fully than the other."
Of course, I'd argue that Old School's determination to keep funneling excess water into Obama's head in a desperate scheme to even things up was a factor too, but what I say doesn't matter. It's what you say, on Tuesday, alone in the voting booth, that matters.
But watch the video to see for yourself who's got the head for the job.
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