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“Turning casual, recreational summer softball                            into a hyper-competitive bloodsport since 2009.”

not an official Harvard University site


Christian D’Andrea

The Harvard fight song is a gem.  Predicting doom for Old Eli always brings a warm glow to the heart of any Harvard alumnus.  But the song is missing something.

It’s got Ten Thousand Men of Harvard in it.  But it forgets to mention the women.

In the summer of 2009, I found the perfect opportunity to remedy the situation.  

I entered a Harvard team in Washington DC’s hotly-contested, co-ed, summer Congressional Softball League, a collection of 100 teams that form a uniquely Washingtonian cultural tapestry.  The League is smoothly run as a labor of love by a gentleman named Gary Caruso, and it features squads from Senate offices, Congressional staffs, DoJ, DoD (the “DoDgers”), the GOP, the Peace Corps, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (the “Out Fielders”), FBI (“Hitbollah”), FDIC (“Too Big to Fail”), Treasury (the “Debt-N-ators”), a thinly-veiled marijuana advocacy group, a security-themed organization called “Margin of Terror,” and even the White House (whose team name was STOTUS, for “Softball Team of the United States”). 


The gap in the Harvard fight song has been filled.

Does our team actually have ten thousand members?  No.  Our team web page lists 120.  But we fly the flag for all ten thousand when we play (and I don’t mean we conceptually fly the flag… I mean we literally fly it… see the picture).

We just finished our second season playing on the Ellipse and the Mall just north of the Washington Monument.  It’s a magical place for summer softball.  It’s the only set of fields in the world where your seventh inning can be interrupted because the field’s airspace is being occupied by three low-flying Marine One choppers, one of them bearing the POTUS, and two of them bugging out as decoys.  When this happens, everyone temporarily ceases their at-bats, as nobody wants to ding the Leader of the Free World’s ride with a pop-fly.

Our team slogan is “Turning casual, recreational summer softball into a hyper-competitive bloodsport since 2009.”  We were joking about “bloodsport.”  But some of the other teams were not.  DC is a competitive area.   In one heated game, an opponent disagreed with an umpire that he was out at first.  Someone from our side suggested he relax and accept the verdict.  This did not soothe the situation.  A player from their bench decided to let loose with a taunt designed to sink the spirits of the Ten Thousand Men and Women.  Oh yeah, Harvard, you’re so smart, what’s the square root of the field? His curious jab was met with a whispered reply from one of our side: “you can’t take the square root of a two-dimensional plane.”

But the truer story is one of fellowship and sportsmanship.  We had some testy exchanges with a team called Raising Arizona in our first season.  But when we played them again in our second season, it was a love fest. 

So our spirits were high and our purpose true.  But how’d we do?

We did well.  We’ve executed double-plays worthy of Jeter.  We’ve hit bombs so deep to right field that the outfielder first reached the ball just as our slugger was reaching home.  Out of a league with 100 teams, we ended the 2010 season ranked #14.  And in our first game of the most recent tournament, we beat the #6-ranked team, the Sons of Pitches, which was chock-full of ex-college baseball stars.  Clearly, we’re capable of bringing our A game (although given Harvard’s grade inflation, perhaps it was really only our B+ game).

And did we beat the White House?  Yes.  Although it felt vaguely unpatriotic to do so.

We’ve had a blast.  And we’ve all enjoyed learning about the very cool things our teammates are up to.  One was a Marine.  Another is an HBS rockstar who teaches at the worst public grade school in the country, three miles from the White House.  Another is a hot-zone reporter who regularly comes to games direct from the airport, having just returned from Afghanistan or Morocco.  Another works at Commerce.  Another the FBI.  Another makes documentaries.  Another catalyzes microfinance through efforts like hands-on assistance to goat farmers in places like Mongolia.  Another runs an energy bar company.  Another works on Capitol Hill.  Another is a root beer entrepreneur.  Another is a banker.  Another is a bullfighter. Some of us are twenty-two years old.  Some of us are twice that.

Diverse careers, a wide range of ages, and the addition of our Harvard sisters to the fight song – these were just some of the strides we made in terms of inclusiveness.  Going further, we opened the team up to a class of people that even Fair Harvard itself excludes – i.e. non-Harvard people.  Two or three of them graced the field with us, and in many cases they proved themselves as likely to bleed Crimson as many of the bona fide alumni.

And Crimson isn’t the only color we bleed, it turns out.  Other hues in our veins include red, white, and blue.  One telling moment came the night the President’s Own Marine Band played a dusk concert in the bandstand at the base of the Washington Monument, adjacent to our field.  We played through some of the preliminary music.  But then something interesting happened.  When the national anthem started up, play stopped.  Our opponents from National Geographic halted just as instinctively as we did.  What surprised me was not how many people turned to face the music.  What surprised me was how many people put their hands over their hearts when they did so.

By singing anthems together, as well as fight songs, we’ve become close.  By winning games together – and laughing off losses together at local watering holes – we’ve become even closer.

Two of our team’s dynamos – Sandra and Russ – had actually just started dating when they began playing softball for the team in 2009.  Last weekend, I attended their wedding in St. Lucia.  Did summer softball cause them to get married?  No.  But I’m pretty sure it helped each of them realize what a great catch the other was.