Republicans, Democrats, and members of the media posed for pictures together, laughing and telling stories to one another as a packed crowd at Watkins Recreation Center Tuesday night looked on in excitement. It wasn’t a utopian fantasy or a clip from “The West Wing,” but the scene of the 9th annual Congressional Women’s Softball Game in Washington, D.C.
The game, which raises money for the Young Survival Coalition to benefit women with breast cancer, serves as a way to build relationships between the two major political parties and the media that covers them, according to game founder Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“We thought it would be beneficial and send a strong message if Republican and Democratic women played together against a common enemy: the press corps,” Wasserman Schultz joked.
The Florida congresswoman is a breast cancer survivor herself, and joined forces with three other congresswomen to start the game as a complement to the men’s congressional matchup played at Nationals Park. But instead of pitting Democrats and Republicans against each other on the diamond, the women’s game combines both members of Congress for a bicameral team against the press.
“We live in a polarizing times, but even in the years when it was less polarized when we first started the game, we were committed and thought it was important to play together on a team, because there were real opportunities to get to know one another as women, as friends, set politics aside, and really fight together for a cause that matters to us all,” Wasserman Schultz told RealClearSports.
The press narrowly beat Congress, 2-1, but the important number was the $292,097.59 the game raised for Young Survivors Coalition. That puts the total amount of money raised for breast cancer at more than $1.1 million since the game began in 2009.
“It’s always been about the community and sisterhood that this game offers,” press team captain and New York Times journalist Mikayla Bouchard told RealClearSports. “It is an immediate network of women who just want to support each other and have a good time. Obviously there’s competition, but it brings out the best, I think, in Washington.”
The matchup showcased the working relationship between Congress and the press in a sports environment that allows oftentimes clashing factions to come together in a show of solidarity.
“If you can bring people of different parties, maybe of adversarial jobs like press members, into a common hobby, something with a common goal and objective that everyone is working toward, that alone puts everyone on the same page,” Bouchard said. “Is sports the only thing? I don’t think so, but it does offer that ability.”
With softball as a backdrop for coming together and raising money and awareness for a charitable cause, the Congressional Women’s Softball Game highlights the best in sports.
“Sports is the connective tissue that I think Americans use to bridge differences, to allow us to rise above everyday life, to engage in spirited competition, to learn how to be good sports, and to come together as a team,” Wasserman Schultz said. “That’s what’s amazing about team sports. When we go on and off that field as a team of bipartisan members of Congress, we don’t just leave that notion of team on the field when the game is over.”