Inside Softball: Politicians and the Press Slug It Out for Good Cause
Washington, D.C. — The sun had yet to peek above the tops of multi-colored rowhouses in a neighborhood not far from the U.S. Capitol. While many were just drinking their first cup of coffee, a group of women were running laps and getting ready to play softball.
These are the “Bad News Babes,” female journalists covering politics in Washington. During early morning softball practices, they are working to maintain their title as the annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game champions.
Now in its fifth year, the game is a friendly athletic competition between congresswomen and the females who cover them. The game raises money for the Young Survival Coalition, which works with young women who have breast cancer.
The teams have been meeting at least twice a week to practice and perfect their swings. “This is the best part of the year, this two months where we practice at 7 a.m. about 20 times leading up to the game,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz told the NewsHour.
The press team remains focused on repeating their strong performance from last year, when they won 13-10. Bad News Babes co-captain Abby Livingston of CQ Roll Call credits her team’s continued success and improvement, in part, to the recruitment efforts of their coach, New York Times Washington editor Carl Hulse. “He has a very good eye for talent within his own newsrooms,” Livingston said.
This year’s most promising rookies, according to Livingston, include New York Times’ Jill Agostino, NPR’s Tamara Keith, Real Clear Politics’ Caitlin Huey-Burns and PBS NewsHour’s own Political Editor Christina Bellantoni.
For the members of Congress, team dynamics have radically shifted thanks to new blood — a historic number of women were elected to office in November, including Rep. Cheri Bustos, D-Ill.; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii; and Rep. Martha Roby, R-Ala.
Competition isn’t limited to game day. As early as the new-member swearing-in this winter, Congresswomen were exchanging friendly jabs with the press, Livingston said.
“It’s an occupational hazard for me,” Livingston said. “I cannot go down to votes and do my job as a reporter without having various members taunt, glare, jeer. … I’ve kind of taken the lead on a lot of the trash talk on social media so I’ve kind of made myself an easy target as well.”
Wasserman Schultz, the congresswomen’s team co-captain, admitted that Livingston’s “trash talk” does keep her motivated: “I just have the most interest in belting the ball to ensure that the press team loses this year.”
All the proceeds of the game go to the Young Survival Coalition, which works with young women who have breast cancer. Last year, the women raised $62,000 and they are on target to raise more than $250,000 for the organization since the inception of the game in 2009. This year, CQ Roll Call even created a fantasy softball contest as another way fans can participate and donate ahead of the first pitch.
While the competition is fierce, members of both teams said it’s all for the cause. Livingston summed it up: “We do like coming out and fighting and … the smack talk, but it’s all about creating a spectacle that directs attention to this disease that affects so many people.”
Video shot and edited by Ellen Rolfes and Cindy Huang