Memphis, History & Politics

Friday, April 28, 2006

Republicans and Democrats Can't Play Ball

No timid test post, no fiery manifesto, just a short essay to set the tone for my first effort. Every spring on Capitol Hill, team captains from all of the offices that want to play in the softball league meet to work out schedules, rules and reacquaint themselves with Hillstaffers they don't otherwise see throughout the year. It is as much frivolous and ingenuous as it is egalitarian. All those things the rest of work on the Hill is not. One evening a week as team captain of the Shelby Scuds (Sen. Richard Shelby D-AL nee R-AL), I left my world of sorting mail at the very bottom of the office ladder and became a man among men, and at least two women at all times in the field and in the batting order. In the late sunshine of a summer evening we would send an envoy (read: unpaid intern) out to claim a spot on Ameirca's front lawn. Somewhere betwixt the Capitol and the Washington monument, we would do battle with another team from a political office, or perhaps a non-profit or lobbying group. No distinction was made as to political bent. Jesse Helms's office, the Lucky Strikes, were welcome to play by Ted Kennedy's office or anybody else.
These days, it seems even softball has been ruined by politics. The New York Times is reporting that Republican teams have broken away from Democratic teams playoffs for supposedly imposing a "liberal" approach to bracketing. Liberal meaning top seeded teams play each other in earlier rounds instead of first playing lower seeded easier teams. This means some lower seeded teams will always advance. Some call it "Softball Welfare." Horseshit.
Only twice did I ever spill blood on the field of Congressional softball battle and both times at the hands of the far left. Both times I was covering home plate. The first time was against the lobbying office of the pipefitter's union. No real surprise there. We all counted ourselves as valiant stalwarts of the game afterwards just being able to walk away under our own power. The second time was against then Senator Al Gore. Not that Al was actually there. In the whole time, I only ever saw one poitician playing; Richard Lugar regularly pitched for his own team.
Anyway, I was catching when we all saw the third base runner coming in plenty of time. She was 4 inches and 50 pounds shy of my sturdy frame, so when I caught the ball and swung my arm around to tag her, I didn't even look to see she wasn't going to slow down. Before I could pick myself up off the sacred monumental dirt and spit the grass our forefathers planted in remembrance from my bloody lips, my teammates were all over the other coach. Sure the rules forbade full contact, sliding or even tagging at all, but if someone did, it was just part of the game, no hard feelings. Afterwards we all went to a bar and shared a beer. I found out that this player didn't even work for Gore. She was with a foundation set up by the Kennedys. A liberal ringer!
The NYT article only mentions a rift in the playoffs. We never made it that far. Our great tactic was to play myself and a couple of others with enough talent to get on base with a sort of looping hit right over the utility infielder's reach. This was always the spot where the lesser talented of the two female players was put. The better one was catcher, by the way. I could manage to get to first or second most times and then we'd follow up with Garth, our one player who could be counted to put it in the Sycamores. Provided the other team didn't also have a tactic to that would get them about one run per inning, we'd win. Playoffs were for the few, absudly serious teams. Absudly serious means teams that thought winning was more important than making sure someone showed up with beer.
If there are enough teams today that care more about who goes to the playoffs, let alone wins, than who's bringing the beer, to cause a complete rift in the whole league, this partisan politics problem is even worse than I thought. They can politicize Supreme Court nominations, intelligence gathering, immigration, lobbying reform, campaign reform, disaster assistance reform, but when they take away softball and beer drinking, someone's got to draw the line. When terms like liberal and conservative can be used, with a straight face, to criticize softball rules, well then, its become obvious that neither of those concepts has any traction with the rest of us. The rest of us think that playing ball is about getting the higher score and enjoying the game. Name calling, whining and taking your ball and going home so the other team is supposed to look bad doesn't make for any winners. I hope that begins to make the point of Better Traction, but if not, don't worry, I'm going to keep on trying.


Anonymous Ashley Brown said...

That was a most excellent first post, and I believe it did set the tone for Better Traction. It was your take on a current topic with a little narrative yarn thrown in, which is your forte. I especially like the imagery of you spitting out the grass planted by our forefathers. Hey, and I only saw two typos! Excellent!

7:27 AM

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