Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The Zero Game

SCMZZZZZZZ.jpg” />I recently finished reading Brad Meltzer’s The Zero Game, a terrific book about a game gone horribly awry in DC. For political junkies, Meltzer provides plenty of detail on the inner workings of the Appropriations Committee (quite timely, actually, considering that there’s a nice little scandal brewing between an Appropriations Committee staffer, his boss Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-CA) and the staffer’s old lobbying firm), relationships between Hill staffers, and even the inner workings of the Page program. Throw in a little science (I won’t spoil the surprise), expertly-written suspense, and an all-around fun plot and it’s a book you won’t be able to put down.

The premise of the game is simple: and if it doesn’t exist in DC, it absolutely should. Bored by their jobs, Hill staffers begin a game: bets on trivial details that’ll seem to harmless to people not in on the game. Can you get a Senator to say “pepperoni pizza” on the floor of the Senate? $5 says you can’t. Can you replace a Congressman’s handkerchief with a pair of panties? $20 says no way. And so on. Whoever gets the high bet is then charged with making the thing happen; anyone else playing the game is then hell-bent to prevent it. An interesting twist: noone knows who else is playing the game. As a result, you don’t know if your co-workers are working against you. Or maybe the Senators themselves?

It’s a neat premise, and reminds me of promises many of my law school classmates made about if they ever became judge. One friend guaranteed us that every opinion he wrote would contain the title of a Beatles song. Another said that he’d find a way to work the names of Crayola Crayons into his opinions. You get the idea.

Predictably, the game takes a turn for the worse, and one of its players finds himself running for his life. It’s a great page-turner, it’s highly recommended.


  1. What kind of law school did you go to? And where was I when this was going on? Oh yeah, this must have been the 1Ls talking.

  2. Right. Before we all grew up. ;)