Illinois lawmakers in a league of their own

Unfortunately, Illini Media Company won’t reimburse the editorial board for a day trip to the House-Senate Softball Game so that we could see it for ourselves. Worse, no one on the sports desk volunteered either – something about their dead bodies.

Instead, we must use our own intuition and imagination to predict what happened at Wednesday’s game.

Ah, the smell of Springfield in the springtime. No, not that smell.

The scent of freshly cut grass in our state’s capitol means that our lawmakers can get out of their stuffy offices and participate in America’s past time: Pretending to be good at baseball … by playing softball.

For one evening each year, state senators and representatives stop their partisan bickering and instead heckle each other from the sidelines. But surprisingly, the difference between attacking your opponent’s political stance isn’t that different from mocking his batting stance.

Despite being billed as one of the few times a year Springfield can put politics aside, this year’s event was not immune to the ongoing rancor between the legislative and executive branches. Word around the capitol is that Governor Blagojevich has been working out and is eager to show off during the game. Frustrated by the legislature’s lethargic pace on deciding when to hold the game, Blago decreed that it start at 4 p.m. sharp. House Speaker Mike Madigan, no bench warmer himself, ostensibly decided to begin the game at 5:30 so that the setting sun would be right in the Governor’s eyes.

The game began under a cloudy sky, but then again, what else is new? While the budget has been running dry, Mother Nature has given Illinois one of its wettest years in a long time.

After 3 innings, the clouds parted as the Governor arrived late to the field, literally. Unable to get himself in gameday mode at the mansion, he flew in straight from the Windy City, touching down just beside the field. He then demands to pinch hit for the Senate immediately.

Stepping up to the plate, he grips the bat tightly, ready to show them the long ball. Meanwhile, snarky observers imagine what could be written on those balls.

Gross receipts tax? Swing and a miss.

Proposal to pump more funds into anti-violence programs after cutting funding for anti-violence programs in August? He tries to bunt! But it dribbles over the third base line out of play.

Unilateral expansion of FamilyCare? A long foul down the left field line.

Recall? A high and tight screwball right under his chin. Ball one.

Just then, Rep. Kim Lightford yells from left-field (or is it right-field?) that the game should stop and observe a moment of silence. Despite the governor’s protest, the players stand awkwardly for two minutes reflecting on the terrible color choice of this year’s uniforms.

Breaking the moment was the sound of state troopers marching into the dugouts after receiving reports of tobacco use.

“But I’m not smoking it,” pleaded one flustered lawmaker. “I’m chewing it!”

The game resumes and Blagojveich hits a high pop fly to center field. But Rep. Monique Davis, still presumably lamenting the uniform colors with her eyes closed and hands raised to the sky, fails to catch the ball. The Governor reaches on an error. From the peanut gallery, atheist activist Rob Sherman smiles contentedly.

Rain then delays the game for two hours and, in a rare moment of candor, the Governor laments his ill-advised cuts of all monies to the University of Illinois Extension office and soil and water conservation programs which, conveniently, included the field’s grounds keepers. “But my office only WITHHELD the funds,” he explains.

On the next pitch (“Rezko”) he attempts to steal second base but is thrown out by the House catcher. “He’s safe!” declares the second-base umpire.

The House dugout explodes in protest but the ump removes his mask and reveals himself to be Emil Jones. “He got on base and now you’ll just have to live with him.”

In a sign of things to come, the game went to extra innings. No word yet on who was elected this year’s Most Valuable Player.

Final score: Senate 6, House 3 – Illinois 0.