July 25, 2008

The Best Congress Money Can Buy Or: How I Handpicked The Perfect Legislative Team

I, like a majority of Americans, am unable to play sports at a professional level. It's a fact. At one point in high school, I thought I played tennis pretty well, but I couldn't ever nail my serve with any consistency so I was perennially second best. And permanently not a professional. However, thanks to the ingenuity of a Harvard professor that goes by the name of Bill Gamson, we have fantasy sports.

Most sources date 1980 as the birth date of fantasy sport, when journalist Dan Okrent founded Rotisserie League Baseball over lunch with some colleagues at La Rotisserie Francaise in Manhattan. But it seems as this isn't the whole story. In fact, if that historical lunch is known as the "live birth" of fantasy, then the National Baseball Seminar was its poetic conception. Dr. William A. Gamson, now a professor at Boston College, created the first speculative sports league (tracking only two batting categories and two pitching categories) in 1960 while he was living in Cambridge, England. As a sociologist, he has spent much of his professional research developing game simulations that address global justice and similar issues. Sweet irony that he will be remembered for the being the Founding Father of Fantasy...

Since then, the sport of fantasy has grown to pandemic levels. Even beyond anecdotal evidence, though, there is plenty of academic research to prove that fantasy has consumed people's lives. And I am among those ranks.

Recently, my addiction has sunk to a new low. Fantasy Congress is a project started by a student named Andrew Lee at Claremont McKenna College. Enamored by his roommate's preoccupation with fantasy football, Lee was struck with a thought. He wanted to channel the engaging obsession of fantasy sport into a game that would draw regular schmoes into a better understanding of the political world. With the help of software gurus Arjun Lall and Ian Hafkenschiel, Fantasy Congress was born.

Points are earned by writing legislation, cosponsoring legislation, attending Congress, and newsworthiness. For instance, Barack Obama scores some good points in the news category, but doesn't get many attendance points since he's out campaigning. It's a great way to stay (or start to be) informed about what your local and national lawmakers are doing.

I started a league yesterday that will go live on Monday morning, and I cordially invite you to join. The league name is "Social Media Socrates." I'm going to cap it 25, so sign up today! Now, about that weak backhand...

"I feel the way Robert Oppenheimer felt after he invented the atomic bomb. If I'd only known this plague that I've visited upon the world."
Daniel Okrent


Aaron Stiner, DRB said...

I picked my team. Am I winning yet??

Elisa said...

Sam, how can you do this to me?? The last thing I need is another diversion! :)
I told everyone in our office and we're wondering: what's the buy in/entrance fee?