In this city of talk, it's time for action. In this cauldron of political ideology, it's time to see who plays a good game, and who merely talks one. Ladies and gentlemen, (drum roll!) I give you (fanfare!) the First Annual Think Tank Softball Championship of Washington.

This Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m., 16 teams of every political stripe and ideological bent will meet on the playing field to see which can claim to be the best softball team in all thinkdom. The chief beneficiary -- besides the nearest dispensary of Band-Aids, Ben-Gay and Budweiser -- will be our Send a Kid to Camp campaign, the fund drive that I conduct each spring on behalf of 1,200 underprivileged children.

Sixteen teams will take part in our inaugural Think Tank tournament. Each squad will contribute an entry fee of $100. Just like that, with the $1,600 we'll collect, five kids will be able to go to one of three camps in nearby Virginia this summer.

But these 16 teams are thinking about more than the good works they'll be doing with their checking accounts. Word has it that all over town, think tankists are setting aside treatises on the economic future of the nation and sneaking into the halls. There, they are practicing their batting strokes and honing their fielding skills.

Somebody once called softball a sport. He hadn't met the fire-in-the-eyes folks who will compete on Saturday.

Speaking of meeting them, let's do so, right now. The first-round pairings are:

Congressional Budget Office vs. The White House (no complaining about the tax bill permitted).

The Institute for Policy Studies vs. The Center for Defense Information.

Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies vs. Mutual Radio ("Hey, we know how to think, too," a Mutualite said, as he applied to participate).

The Environmental Policy Institute vs. The Wilson Quarterly.

The Heritage Foundation vs. The Office of Technology Assessment.

The State Department vs. The Congressional Research Service.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies vs. The Capital Centre ("We think, too," the Cap Centrists insisted).

And finally, the battle of the liberals (remember them?): The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace vs. The Brookings Institution.

Combat gets under way at 10 a.m. at St. John's College High School, 2607 Military Rd. NW, whose officials have graciously allowed us to borrow their playing fields for the day. The public is welcome. So are any donations any fan might care to make to the camp campaign on the spot. Levey will be there, wearing a pair of jeans with deep pockets, to handle just such an eventuality.

Besides bragging rights, Saturday's winner will win a lovely (and highly appropriate) prize: a 13-inch-high replica of Rodin's famous statue, "The Thinker." The replica was obtained for the tournament by the Wallace Wentworth Gallery Ltd., 2006 R St. NW. Heaps of thanks to the folks there (especially Rob Smulian) for cheerfully playing such an indispensable part in the proceedings.

So, ladies and gentlemen of the thinkeries, it's time to lace up the old cleats. A full, fearless report, without political taint, will follow the tournament. In the meantime, the camp-bound kids certainly thank all the teams who are set to participate. I do, too.

If you're still teetering on the edge, wondering whether the camp campaign is worth your hard-earned bucks, or whether it's truly a part of Washington life, two correspondents would like to offer you a quick education. They are among our more senior citizens, and they answer both questions in the affirmative.

Joan Abrams of Southeast (who contributed $25) said that "almost 50 years ago, my husband Carl, then an inner-city, poverty-stricken kid, was sent to camp through the kindness of others. It was a wonderful experience he has never forgotten."

Mary Allman, also of Southeast (who contributed $10), called the camping experience "priceless." How does she know? "I was a counselor at Camp Goodwill in 1935 and '36, when it was located in Rock Creek Park," Mary writes.

Goodwill is now located near Dumfries, Va. But the activities and the results are exactly the same. Thanks, Joan and Mary. It's nice to hear from two people who know how long the value of our Send a Kid to Camp program lasts.


In hand as of June 11: $51,600.30.

Our goal as of June 23: $200,000.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.