At last, a Fantasy League for wonks and hacks
Perhaps it was inevitable, after all, politics has devolved into a sport in many respects, but now a few college guys in California have made it a reality.
For those people who have zero interest in memorizing football stats and find their coworkers and friends talk about sports to be mind-numbing, there's a new game in town.
From the NY Times:
... policy buffs have an outlet for their competitive urges. Fantasy Congress, a Web site created by four students at Claremont McKenna College in Southern California, made its debut three weeks ago. Through word of mouth and blog entries, it has attracted nearly 600 participants from states including Texas and Florida, from as far away as Denmark and, of course, from the Beltway.One of the founders of the fantasy congress site is Andrew Lee...
For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture.
Just as in fantasy football or baseball, each player picks a team — in this case, 4 senators and 12 House members of varying seniority levels — and competes with other players in a league typically managed by a friend or a co-worker. Members determine whether to play for money or the thrill of victory. But that is where the similarities end.
On the Fantasy Congress Web site, www.fantasycongress.us, leagues have names like "We the Peeps" and "Foley4Prez," in addition to the usual school and workplace affiliations.
Players accumulate points as the legislators they have chosen go about their business on Capitol Hill. A House member or senator earns five points for introducing a bill or an amendment, and more points for negotiating successfully each step in the legislative process.
Players can change their team members once a week, so if a scandal-plagued lawmaker resigns there is an opportunity to pick someone new. As of now, legislators can be on multiple teams within a league, but the site’s creators plan to introduce an exclusivity rule that would limit a legislator to playing for only one team.
A list updated daily on the Web site shows the cumulative point rankings of each legislator. Representative Don Young, Republican of Alaska and chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, is first in the House with 1,905 points. Senator John W. Warner, Republican of Virginia and chairman of the Armed Services Committee, leads the Senate with 1,991 points.
The Web site’s creators say they plan to add other ways to earn points, like floor speeches and news media references, but for now, the bill-based system is the sole measure of legislative productivity, making for a range of team-picking strategies.
Mr. Lee is also a Denver Broncos fan and has dabbled in fantasy baseball. In his dorm room, a poster of Jake Plummer, the Broncos’ quarterback, hangs across from legislators-in-action photographs from Congressional Quarterly.Hard to argue with that.
One day during his freshman year, Mr. Lee was watching CNN while his roommate exulted over the results of a fantasy football team. He thought, Why not devise a similar game that would pit government aficionados against one another?
He hopes that Fantasy Congress, in addition to being fun, will teach people about their representatives and the legislative process.
If the ins and outs of Congressional business are unlikely to have the hold on the imagination that E.R.A.’s and R.B.I. do, turning those maneuverings into a game may win a few converts to the geek side.
"Everyone knows about football, but more people need to know about Congress," Mr. Lee said. "If as many people knew about Congress as knew about football, baseball and basketball, we’d all be more educated."