Wasserman Schultz, center, helped found the Congressional Women’s Softball Game several years ago to promote bipartisanship and a breast cancer charity, the Young Survival Coalition.
The freshman congresswoman had been sworn in for only an hour or two, and she was already loaded for bear.
“I’m going to beat you!” she declared to this reporter, feet from the House floor.
This was no retaliatory physical threat over tough campaign coverage. No, she was talking softball.
There is no other city where amateur softball is taken more seriously than in the District of Columbia. But there is one game that takes that intensity to the point of near absurdity: the annual June meeting of female lawmakers against female Capitol Hill reporters.
“It’s a rivalry. Full-fledged,” the game’s founder, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., said on swearing-in day. “It’s a healthy intensity, one that has a fun edge to it.”
And so that is how the first day of the 113th Congress became Draft Day.
Players on the reporter’s team, known as the Bad News Babes, scoped out the new female members and traded information on which freshmen had committed to joining the members’ team. And it is not just the female reporters — one of the Bad News Babes’ male coaches was in on the act as well.
Meanwhile, Wasserman Schultz spent part of the day nailing down recruits, including freshman Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.
Wasserman Schultz dreamed up the game several years ago to promote both bipartisanship and a breast cancer charity, the Young Survival Coalition.
The joke is that the competitive swagger among players has not always matched their athletic ambitions. Trash talk is often fiercer than the performance on the field.
But things are changing.
Americans elected a record number of women to Congress this year, so the members’ team has a wider talent pool. It remains to be seen whether it is deeper.
The members often complain about the age disparity between the two teams, and these rookies will indeed be younger. But it is not physical abilities that seem to matter as much as the fact that, like the reporter team, many of these women are post-Title IX and are no novices to organized sports.
As for the Babes, a dramatically improved team showed up to play last year, thanks to new players and Spartan-like dedication from veterans such as the Chicago Sun Times’ Lynn Sweet.
The big news for the Bad News Babes is that CNN’s Dana Bash confirmed on swearing-in day that she will return to her co-captain role after redshirting the 2011 season for maternity leave and missing the 2012 game because of her brother’s wedding.
Wasserman Schultz approached Bash several years ago to begin the tradition. Previously, the members played against campaign committee staffers.
Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., takes a selfie with his cut-out head during the Hoops for Youth 16th annual charity basketball game held at George Washington University's Smith Center, September 8, 2014. The members of Congress team beat the lobbyist team 46-40. Buy photo here.