Last night I watched the Democratic candidates debate on television. I went to a friend’s house and joined a group of like minded people to see what the folks running for president had to say. One thing we all noticed was how much like a sporting event the whole thing was. The debate was on CNN and they couldn’t have done a better job of making it like Monday Night Football if they tried. Which I’m sure they did try. The whole thing was laid out and choreographed to resemble a sports event.
It started with the Pre-game show. “What are we going to see tonight?”
“Well Tom, it looks like…”
Just like a football pre-game show. The talking heads all gave their opinions on how the evening was going to go, who they thought might “win” the debate/game and who would “lose.” They gave the candidates/players stats/poll numbers and talked about strategy. And then, after a word from our sponsors, the debate/game began.
The banners and graphics were exactly like a sporting event except it was all Stars and Stripes, Red White and Blue, sweeping in from the side and sailing across the screen and even included some swooping noises if I’m not mistaken. The head of the DNC came out and gave a pep talk to the audience that was written with the intent to arouse blood lust for Republicans and get everyone hyped up for the coming show. Then they introduced the candidates/players one by one. Each one came out on stage waving to the adoring crowd. All smiles and laughter with the crowd and each other and stood for the television and live audience to admire. And then, after another word from our sponsors, the game began.
I’m not going to go into the actual debate or what I thought about it. Basically it was tearing apart the president, and tearing apart each other. The one thing that would have made the comparison to a sporting event complete is if they had a referee tossing out a yellow rag and calling foul. It just struck me so hard how much the CNN network tried to make this a sporting event. Is that what we’ve come to? We can’t get people interested in their own Democracy unless we make it like a sport? We have to have teams and you have to pick sides, and we have to watch the all important pre-game show or we won’t know what’s going on. So that’s it, it’s a sport. And of course, the talking heads had to have the last word. The analysis of the debate/game afterward is so important because we need the “experts” opinion so we know what to think.
One of the reasons why I think sports are so popular in the U.S. is because you can invest your time and energy into something that won’t cost you anything. I’m not talking about the cost of a football jersey or a game ticket, I’m talking about cost as in, there are no real world consequences if your team loses the Super Bowl. You can be a casual or a hard core football fan and none of it really matters. But politics is different. To be interested in politics means you have to invest yourself, and the consequences of a loss for your “team” means things can go very badly for your country and the world. People don’t want that kind of responsibility, so they distance themselves.
I was saddened by the whole thing. There was a time years ago, when I wasn’t much interested in politics. So I get it, it seems overwhelming. But I know people who can quote a football players entire record but not know the first thing about a politician. Why are we not interested in our democracy, in our freedom? Why do we not care about protecting the freedoms that people died and suffered for? Shouldn’t this be important to us? Shouldn’t it be as important as a football game?