On the Basketball Court, the R's and D's Are on the Same Teams

Every week, Maryland lawmakers play basketball to relax and build camaraderie. On Tuesday, the senators took on the delegates in the final basketball game. The senators prevailed, winning 56 to 41. Video by Philip Rucker/The Washington Post; Edited by Kelly Martini/washingtonpost.com
By Philip Rucker
Thursday, March 27, 2008

It was the marquee game of the season. The basketball coach paced the sidelines, spouting strategy to his team and talking trash about his opponents.

"Give me a rebound," he yelled to his star player.

"Uh oh, double dribble. Look at the guy get away with doubles!" he shouted to the referee, tattling on the opposing team.

You know you're watching a special game when the coach is a 61-year-old Maryland delegate and his star hoopster is the balding chairman of a legislative subcommittee on gambling revenue.

In what is becoming an Annapolis tradition, delegates took on senators for an annual basketball game. Last year, the delegates prevailed. But Tuesday night at the Anne Arundel Community College gymnasium, the senators proved more nimble, skunking the delegates, 56-41.

Who was named most valuable player? The Senate's No. 2 Republican, Allan R. Kittleman, a Howard County lawyer who scored some magical three-pointers.

Who attended in his business suit to cheer the delegates from the sidelines? Jay Walker, a freshman Democratic delegate from Prince George's County who is a former quarterback for the New England Patriots and Minnesota Vikings.

And who was the referee? A lobbyist, of course. Bernie Shaw, who lobbies for the Maryland Troopers Association, wore a black-and-white striped uniform for the occasion.

After what he said he were some questionable calls, Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks (D-Baltimore), who coached the delegates, shouted out: "Bernie, what bills you got in the Senate?"

A few years ago, some lawmakers started getting together to shoot hoops each week. Some days, they just practice; other times, they play community teams. But delegates and senators (and a few aides) face off against each other only once a year, at the end of the 90-day legislative session.

The players say it helps them relax and build camaraderie.

"It's nice to have something other than politics to talk about," said Kittleman, who frequently strategized with the senators' coach, Sen. David Harrington (D-Prince George's), and the team's all-star, Sen. Robert A. Zirkin (D-Baltimore County).

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