The Running of the Balls

It’s inauguration weekend, which means there are a thousand balls to attend. These balls are tedious, so Monica and Dan decided to make a competition out of going to them, in the style of “The Amazing Race.” They will be live-tweeting their contest — @MonicaHesse, @MrDanZak — using the hashtag #runningoftheballs from 8 p.m. to 12:15 a.m. EST tonight. Afterward, they will cobble together a time-stamped diary of their experiences (to be published Monday). They have picked 11 balls, and each has been assigned a point value that will be awarded to the contestant when he or she crosses the threshold of the ball.

But. The contestant may only exit a ball if:

  1. He or she takes a photo with a food item or beverage whose name is a political pun (a “Yes We Canapé,” for example, or an “Obamartini”). Or:
  2. He or she takes a photo with an elected official of any kind, a person wearing a tiara, or a celebrity whose renown is vetted via e-mail by at least one of three Washington Post colleagues (Amy Argetsinger, Katherine Boyle or Marie Elizabeth Oliver). Or:
  3. He or she takes a photo of him or herself participating in a group dance (“The Electric Slide,” for example, or “The Wobble”). Or:
  4. A song by Stevie Wonder is played in part or in total; the contestant may depart as soon as the song begins. Or:
  5. An attendee delivers a speech; the contestant must stay for the duration of the speech, and be able to deliver a quotation from it. Or:
  6. He or she spots and photographs an attendee who is wearing clothing or paraphernalia that supports a politician other than Barack Obama. Or:
  7. He or she spots the other contestant and is able to snap a surreptitious photo of him or her; the spotter may then leave immediately; the spotted must remain in the exact location at which he or she was spotted for 15 minutes and write a self-critical diary entry.


If, after 45 minutes, none of these seven exit cues have presented themselves, the contestant may leave the ball — but, as a penalty, he or she must travel to the next ball on foot.

Monica and Dan must meet at Post headquarters by 12:15 a.m. There is a severe penalty for lateness: If a contestant arrives between 12:16 and 12:20, it’s minus one point; if his or her arrival is 12:21 to 12:25, it’s minus two points. And so on.

Follow them tonight. Tweet them tips or words of encouragement. Also, pray for them. And look for the combined diary of the race on Monday. Ad astra per aspera.