Lorenzo Alexander's life was simpler four years ago. He did not have a family of five. He did not own a pilates studio in Ashburn, and he did not have a strong foothold professionally as a co-captain of the Washington Redskins.
So when it came time to vote for president, Alexander's choice was simple. He is an African-American, and so is Barack Obama. The optimism Obama represented after George W. Bush's eight years in office was enough to earn his vote.
This autumn, however, Alexander had much more to consider in the election between Obama and Mitt Romney. His decision-making process has been extensive. He, like many of his teammates, has followed the campaigns with a hunger for detail and understanding about issues and the impact of policies.
"Just trying to talk to a lot of different people about how it affects them," Alexander said. "That's how you really find out, vs. Obama or Romney telling you how it's affecting people. You've got to go out and actually ask people you respect and have gotten to know over the years."
And on Sunday, just two days before the election, all eyes on the presidential race would be wise to turn, even slightly, to Alexander's Redskins as they host the Carolina Panthers.
Since the Redskins moved to Washington 75 years ago, the outcome of their final home game before the election has correctly predicted the outcome of 17 of 18 presidential elections. If the Redskins win, the incumbent party wins. If they lose, the challenger is elected. It's the so-called Redskins Rule.
Learning of the rule amused some newer members of the team this week. The Redskins' locker room, like any workplace, includes pockets of political discourse.
The issues are important to some players, who are glad to provide a reminder that when the games are over, they are citizens, too.
"It's good that you see guys that actually broaden their mind and aren't just worried about football and sports," said defensive end Stephen Bowen, who watched each presidential debate. "They're actually worried about things going on in the world."
Football is far from the only topic discussed in the Redskins' locker room. And don't think it's easy to pinpoint a political leaning one way or another.
Players on the active, reserve and practice-squad rosters represent 26 states and the District.
"There are some really, really well-informed people, and guys kind of have some passion," right guard Chris Chester said. "I may not agree with everything everybody says, but in this environment you have a lot of different experiences, people coming from different backgrounds."
It's like any workplace, except, "there's probably a lot less concerns about what HR will say if you say something kind of off-beat," Chester said.
Being a locker room instead of a traditional office, the dynamic is a little different.
"We can probably talk a little more liberally in the locker room just because it's more of a locker room-type setting than more so in a 9-to-5 behind a desk," defensive lineman Kedric Golston said. "But we all have different views, different opinions on things. Everybody has different conversations. Nobody's getting heated about a conversation."
Perhaps that's because the job entails a common goal of winning. Right tackle Tyler Polumbus said it's fun to discuss politics because these are "people you care about and go to war with all the time."
Of course, while Alexander, Golston and Chris Wilson are among those who watched the debates and routinely discuss politics, there are those who prefer to remain on the fringes when the conversation moves in that direction.
"I'd rather keep my mouth shut and just kind of hear about different people talking about the point of views that Obama vs. Romney have," fullback Darrel Young said. "You'll never win politics arguments. There's always two sides to an argument, which is everything, but I just feel like stuff like this, I don't know half of what's going on, to be honest with you."
Linebacker Rob Jackson said he prefers to listen in order to get the "gist" of what each candidate represents. Others savor the back-and-forth.
"I think it's at the core of American values to have these debates," Chester said. "It's good to be challenged in some of your views, and it is good to have to kind of think from a different perspective."
Alexander, as a business owner, has a different perspective this election than in the last one.
"If I'm already being efficient with 80 workers, why, if I'm making more profit, would I go out and hire 20 more people? I have no incentives," he said. "I'm just going to put that money in my pocket. So you have to do things to incentivize people to hire people, as well, not just cut taxes or raise taxes."
And while Alexander wants what is best for the business he and Golston run, his Christian faith is the most influential element when he votes.
"Everything I do is incorporated in that," Alexander said. "But it's very hard these days when people don't align themselves politically like that, so obviously each candidate has something that I don't agree with, but I have to vote for somebody to have my vote count."
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