Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Playing "Hardball"

From the stakeholder:

Starting this week, hundreds of young Capitol Hill aides will indulge in an annual rite of spring here by changing out of their business suits and heading over to the National Mall to play in the Congressional Softball League.

Amid all the partisan rancor of congressional politics, the softball league has for 37 years been a rare case of bipartisan civility, an opportunity for Democratic and Republican aides to sneak out of work a bit early and take the field in the name of the lawmaker, committee or federal agency they work for.

This year, the league will be missing something: a lot of the Republicans.

During the off-season, a group of Republican teams seceded from the league after accusing its Democratic commissioner, Gary Caruso, of running a socialist year-end playoff system that gives below-average teams an unfair chance to win the championship.

The league "is all about Softball Welfare -- aiding the weak by punishing the strong," the pitcher of one Republican team told Mr. Caruso in an email. "....

....The softball coup is a "reflection of how partisan and Republican this town has really become since Republicans took control," responds Mr. Caruso, a longtime Democratic aide who worked for congressmen in the 1980s and '90s. "Republicans come here and want to bash your head in. And if they don't get their way, they pick up the ball and go home."


No wonder our government is so ineffectual. If they can't figure a way to play softball together how the hell are they supposed to figure out education?

So, what does this emotionally-charged, obviously high-stakes battle of softball-wills consist of, exactly? The above quotes make these games seem like brutal, manly, balls-out contests of skill.

Sort of.

The congressional league is a relaxed affair: No umpires call balls and strikes, so batters don't have to swing until they get a pitch they like. Fields are open to the public, so most teams dispatch an intern or junior aide to reserve a field several hours before game time. And after games, teams often head to a bar to recap the game over chicken wings and pitchers of beer.

Gosh, no wonder people are upset over the "socialist softball" approach. I mean, after you've worked your ass off waiting for that perfect pitch and ignoring such pesky game-hiccups as "strikes," of course you want to be recognized for the superiority of your achievements.

Hey, Washington: If you can't put aside your petty squabbles in the name of beer and wings, then you ain't men at all.


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