It’s 110 years old. And it’s showing its age.
The trash talk and hero stories are already unfurling in the ultimate partisan Washington faceoff, this week’s annual, Congressional Baseball Game.
Two former NFL players — Reps. Colin Allred (D-Tex.) and Anthony Gonzalez (R-Ohio) — are on the roster.
A college baseball star — Rep. Roger Williams (R-Tex.) — is ready to relive his glory days on the diamond.
It’s the Democrats against the Republicans going for broke on the majestic, major league field at Nationals Park.
The whole production is emblematic of everything wrong with Congress.
I know, I know. Peanuts, popcorn and Cracker Jack, what’s more American than a baseball game on a summer night? How dare I?
But the beloved charity game is the old America.
Among the partisans grandstanding to fight one another, there are two women — Reps. Linda T. Sánchez and Nanette Barragán, both California Democrats.
Female players make up about 2.7 percent of this game’s two rosters. The last time Congress had stats like that was in 1953.
It’s time that Washington’s big ballgame join the 21st century.
And for that, we have to leave the gleaming Nats stadium and go across the neighborhood to an elementary school park.
Last week, 3,500 people crammed into the small ballfield behind Watkins Elementary School to watch the Congressional Women’s Softball Game, which just celebrated its 11th year.
Yes, the women get to play their big game at a neighborhood school.
“I am at Watkins now, and I can’t even believe this,” a mommy friend of mine texted me last week, as she watched congressional superstars like Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) high-five on the field. “The congressional (men’s) baseball team does its charity game at Nats stadium …. How can anyone take Title IX school complaints seriously when this is what CONGRESS does?!?!?!”
Oh yes. I see the outrage. (Want to talk U.S. women’s soccer, anyone?)
But logistics — rather than outright misogyny — have to be addressed before I launch into an operatic rant.
“We have definitely outgrown Watkins — which is a good problem to have,” said Rachel Palermo, who is on the organizing committee for the game. “We have already been searching for other possibilities in the D.C. metro area for our game.”
They talked to the Nats about having their game at the stadium, and though there are logistical concerns with changing a baseball field to a softball field, it’s not impossible, Palermo said.
Remember, this place also hosted the pope and had a sheet of hockey ice, so I’m sure hosting women’s softball isn’t the impossible dream.
But there’s also attendance.
“We are steadily growing in attendance each year and are thrilled that 3,500 people came out to see the 11th annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game,” she said. “However, we haven’t grown to the 20,000 plus people that come out to see the Congressional Baseball Game. We would need to be a much larger entity before we can think about incurring all the expenses related to opening up the stadium.”
Wait! Haven’t we heard about logistics barriers before?
The logistics of dorms when more and more women enrolled in college. The quandary of male locker rooms when female sports reporters joined their male brethren for post-game interviews. What are we going to do about barracks if women join the military?
This isn’t an old argument.
The Senators-only bathrooms on Capitol Hill used to be labeled “Men Only.” It wasn’t until 1993 that female Senators got their own restroom.
And get this. The women of the House of Representatives didn’t get their own bathroom until 2011.
But today, with a Congress that’s 23 percent female, those arguments are getting weaker.
The women’s softball game — where a bipartisan team of congressional women take on the media — will keep growing as more and more women are elected into office and Congress begins to look more like the United States.
Just take a look at what’s happening in world soccer right now. U.S. women are dominating, and American boys are becoming their groupies, switching their fandom from the less effective, y-chromosome team they used to support.
It won’t be long before the women’s game is in a stadium of its own. Maybe they’ll even have a few men on the roster.