Monday, October 23, 2006

Stags In The News

After 3 fellow Claremonters sent me the link to the following article, I have no choice but to post it. Not that I wouldn't have posted it. Sorry I was slow. Here you go: Fantasy Sports? Child’s Play. Here, Politics Is the Game.

. . . Now, she and fellow 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.
Atta boys. Go Stags.

Update: Apparently, this story was #1 on the "Most Emailed" list at NYT yesterday. Rock on!

1 comment:

cd said...

Here's the whole thing. It's worth registering and checking out the page to see the CMC dorm room shot:

October 23, 2006
Fantasy Sports? Child’s Play. Here, Politics Is the Game.
By CINDY CHANG
When Ellen Montgomery’s co-workers relive the latest Chicago Bears victory or commiserate over the hometown team’s defeat, she has nothing to add to the conversation.

Ms. Montgomery, 27, a grass-roots organizer, says she has “zero” interest in sports and is even less equipped to engage in the statistics-laden talk of fantasy sports leagues that dominates at many water coolers in sports-crazy cities like Chicago. The hours sports fans spend tracking their favorite players are for Ms. Montgomery devoted to scouring the legislative agendas of members of Congress.

Now, she and fellow 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.

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.

Congress is in recess, and many Fantasy Congress leagues are still recruiting players or are waiting until after the Nov. 7 elections to get started. It remains to be seen how the game will play out over a long legislative session. But policy enthusiasts like Ms. Montgomery say they are thrilled that there is finally something for them.

“Especially this time of year, all you hear is people talking about fantasy football leagues,” Ms. Montgomery said. “I couldn’t care less if I tried, either about real football or fantasy football. But hey, I actually pay attention to what goes on in Congress.”

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.

“There’s so much more that impacts how a member of Congress can push their agenda forward than just one simple metric,” said Jeremy Cogan, press secretary for Representative Grace F. Napolitano, Democrat of California, offering an explanation for why his boss was tied for last in the House rankings with Representative Ike Skelton, Democrat of Missouri.

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.

Ms. Montgomery selected her team based on a combination of hard calculation — politicians running for re-election are less likely to be active on the legislative front, she reasoned — and sentimentality. Representative Rodney Frelinghuysen, a Republican from the New Jersey district where she grew up, has netted her zero points so far.

She is in first place in her league, while a friend who could not bring himself to pick any Republicans — even though the majority party has an edge in this scoring system — is in last place.

“It’s about majority and seniority,” said John J. Pitney Jr., a professor of government at Claremont McKenna. “You look at who’s been very active, whose issues are coming up. Sometimes it’s appropriations, sometimes defense or international relations.” Professor Pitney was an adviser to the creators of Fantasy Congress and plans to start a team.

Andrew Lee, the senior who came up with the idea for the game and then enlisted the help of three technically skilled classmates, has a wonky side, to be sure. Mr. Lee has been a devotee of water-rights policy since childhood and at 21 has had three Washington internships. On his four-day fall break, he flew home to Colorado to work on two Democratic campaigns.

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.

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. Professor Pitney says he will make students in his class on Congress play next semester.

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.”

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company