Members of Congress frequently use terms like "camaraderie" and "fun" and "bipartisanship" to describe the Roll Call Congressional Baseball Game . All true. It's also a place where they barrel into each, break bones, spill blood and jockey for influence on their own teams. In short, it's an accurate depiction of life in Congress. One of the best books on baseball is Thomas Boswell's "How Life Imitates the World Series," a collection of the Washington Post scribe's essays that takes the reader through the game's humble settings to its grand stages, and most everything in between.
One of baseball's more charming aspects is its inherent contradictions. Its highest drama is on a world stage in the fall, but it starts in dusty Sunbelt towns in the spring. It's a game where "nothing" happens, yet every single pitch has the potential to change an entire season.
Congress does well in embodying contradictions too. It's a place of intense contradiction and competition, but where people come to make the world a better place. It's an ornate campus of marble and art, but where the lowest skullduggery is practiced on a daily basis.
Earlier this year, we started hearing rumors that members of the Republican team, smarting from three straight years of losing to the Democrats, were unhappy with their manager, Rep. Joe L. Barton of Texas, and wanted new blood. We weren't able to get the story (Time's Alex Rogers got it first , and hats off to him), but it was an example of what many people knew already: For all the talk on the Hill about the game's good-natured spirit, this is a contest that the members take very seriously.
That's not to say there's no fun involved. At a recent event showing off this year's member baseball card set, members of both parties openly embraced at Bullfeathers, patted each other on the back, hoisted beers and gave each other hell.
Barton and his Democratic counterpart, Rep. Mike Doyle of Pennsylvania, both spoke about their mutual respect for one another, as well as their desire to win. For both men, it's real. Barton now knows people are watching his every move on the field. Doyle has the scars to prove it — he slid head-first into home plate at the 2000 game and came up bloodied and bruised.
So as you settle into your seats at Wednesday's game at Nationals Park, get the latest on who won the Roll Call Taste of America contest and cheer on your boss or friend, remember that the political and leadership battles on Capitol Hill don't really stop at the center field gates. They just shift a little, because everyone wants to win. Enjoy the game.