Lawmakers hit gridiron for Congressional Football Game

The trophy for the Congressional Football Game, taking place Wednesday evening at Watkins Recreational Field. (WTOP/Noah Frank)

WASHINGTON — It may be a bye week for the Burgundy and Gold, but there is still an important football game taking place in Washington this week. On Wednesday night, members of Congress will join with former NFL players for the Biennial Congressional Football Game against the U.S. Capitol Police.

The Congressional roster will include 25 of our elected representatives, but one in particular will stand out. That’s because she’s barely over five feet tall, and only discovered the game’s existence by accident.

“I heard some of the guys working out in the gym saying they were doing football, and I was like, ‘have fun,’” said Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., at a recent early-morning practice. “But it wasn’t until I was literally out running the Mall and saw them. And they were like, ‘You should join!’”

McSally is no slouch of an athlete, as she trains for and participates in triathlons. She was also the first woman to command a U.S. Air Force fighter squadron, so she’s not exactly intimidated about being the only female on the field.

“I’m used to being the only girl in the fighter squadron,” she said. “So I’m kind of used to that.”

As for her football background, well, it’s limited.

“Obviously, you can tell,” she laughed. “But I’m athletic. I played backyard football growing up, or whatever. I can run and catch, but I have no idea what the positions are.”

McSally is hoping her triathlon background will help her compete. (Courtesy: Marty LaVor)
McSally is hoping her triathlon background will help her compete on the football field. (Courtesy: Marty LaVor)

That’s why the team has practiced every day the members have been in D.C. for the past few weeks, with a fully laminated playbook and everything. While one might think they’d be at a physical disadvantage against a team of policemen (the game is two-hand touch, not tackle), they’ll benefit from having up to two former NFL players including Ken Harvey, John Booty and Herschel Walker on their side at any point in the game.

The event offers members the rare opportunity to work together in a relaxed setting outside the office, which can actually lead to progress on important matters of business.

“I had a bill I was trying to get the Democrats on to draw up a couple of weeks ago,” McSally explained. “And I went up to some of my football teammates like, ‘Hey, this is a really important bill. Can you take a look at it?’ And they jumped on it. So relationships matter here, too. We have very few chances for that.”

The game also serves as a fundraiser to benefit military and law enforcement families through the Capitol Police Memorial Fund, Our Military Kids, and A Advantage 4 Kids, Inc. That makes it hit especially close to home for someone of McSally’s background.

“It’s a great event for a good cause,” she said. “Supporting military families, fallen capitol police families … that’s serious business.”

It also helps her appreciate the people charge of protecting her every day, even if they will be lined up against her Wednesday night.

“Every time I walk through security, I realize that those guys got our back,” she said. “That’s very serious business. So it makes it doubly important, I think, to be out on the field having this event with them, while also making sure we let them know that we really appreciate them for protecting us and keeping our capitol safe.”

Kickoff is at 7:20 p.m. at Watkins Recreational Field (420 12th St. SE). Tickets are $10 and can be purchased in advance at congressionalfootballgame.org.

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