'Dem Bums': Congressional Baseball Practice

"Those Were the Good Old Days"

Penciled into the lineup for June 28th at 7 p.m. in Washington Nationals Stadium, the bipartisan Congressional Baseball Game’s history is oft ignored. We shan’t buck the trend. Rather, let’s gawk at the aging glad-handers’ baseball practices that guarantee their small ball spectacle constitutes an athletic eyesore and embarrassment to every weekend warrior who doesn’t wake up reeking of schnapps wearing their mom’s prom dress.

“Two Lost Souls”

At times, life mocks art. In the Broadway play/film "Damn Yankees," a middle-aged baseball fan sold his soul to become a Washington Senator. In Congressional Baseball, players sold their souls to become Washington Representatives. Precluded a second injection of diabolical steroids, Congressional baseball practice remains the sole, forlorn hope for transforming anile legislators into stellar athletes by game time.

“Who’s Got the Pain?”

7 a.m. tolls the pitiless practice hour. Bleary-eyed staffers put bloodshot-eyed members through their paces: pitching, catching, hitting, and shagging (fly balls). Absent from the regimen are wind sprints, as the Representatives are already long-winded and, regardless, would just make their staffers pinch run the sprints. Amidst the grunting and bunting, aching and “adjusting”, the members’ individual baseball abilities relegate them to one of three categories: Swingers, Shirks and Stiffs.

Swingers have retained a penchant for their youthful pursuits, if not their baseball skills. Dressed to the nines and white-knuckling their wood, Swingers strike provocative poses at the plate; invite passersby to join them for an overly friendly game of soft toss; and always wear a glove when tagging someone. When queried why they practice for and play in this charity game, Swingers balk as if asked for delinquent alimony payments: “It’s for the kids?”

As for Shirks, they aren’t really bad. They’re awful and embrace it. Shirks are identified by “jerseys” tailored merlot stained, “Say ‘No’ to Drugs” tank tops; “squeeze play” Sansabelt sweat pants; and souvenir “Boehner Invitational” golf visors. Shirkers’ participate for two reasons: drills help oxidize the last drops of complimentary Dom Perignon from the prior night’s Capital Grille “policy consultation”; and they dig the freebies at the game’s after glow.

Dead lastly, Stiffs are the poor bastards who pop up at practice because some sadistic jackass told them it make for “a fun photo-op.” Ineluctably, Stiffs’ ill-starred opportunism wreaks upon them a barrage of debilitating injuries, most commonly a bruised ego and/or an allegedly wild pitch to the “lower extremities.”

“Whatever Lola Wants”

Despite this motley amalgam of members, motives and “talents,” practices usually muddle through the evil hour: Swingers work on comely spectators; Shirkers work on their Blackberrys; and Stiffs work on their physical therapy. Only one thing throws a curve into the linear drudgery and near death experiences practice’s athletic clown cavalcade – Press.

Recently, the GOP’s baseball practice grounded to a halt due to a visit from News Channel 8 anchor and sports enthusiast Katherine Amenta. Credible sources insinuate that for an upcoming episode of View from the Capitol, this Snarkstress par excellence had designated for assignment an anonymous rat to out Congressional Baseball as just beer ball without the buzz.

Whiffing “earned media”, Swingers, Shirkers and Stiffs scurried to the camera like rats to cheese and – Voila! – Ms. Amenta’s mission was accomplished; and Congressional Baseball practice (and View from the Capitol’s ratings) slid to new lows.

“There’s Something about an Empty Chair”

Congressional Baseball practice’s box score of odd balls, bloopers and bruises, and the killjoys’ complaints about legislators wasting time occupying Ball Street, it’s fair to say the undertaking is by no means a homerun for democracy. But before giving Congressional Baseball the hook, ask yourself: Would you rather have “Dem Bums” sitting in the dugout inflicting pain upon themselves or sitting in the Congress inflicting pain upon you?

I thought so…

“Let’s play two!”

Thaddeus G. McCotter,
U.S. Representative (MI-11)


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