Ethan Sturm | Rules of the Game
The political ‘arena’
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 08:10
I have a confession to make, one that won’t be popular on campus. On Monday night, I didn’t watch the final presidential debate. Not one minute. It wasn’t that I was in class or studying for a midterm, it was just that Game Seven of the National League Championship Series was on and it was better television.
While we’re being honest, I didn’t watch the Oct. 16 debate either. My beloved New York Yankees were playing a do−or−die game against the best pitcher in baseball and that’s where my attention was.
Some might call me un−American for my choices, but I’d argue that I’m the one following America’s national pastime instead of America’s national traveling circus.
At a basic level, politics and sports have a lot in common. Both are overanalyzed by hundreds of journalists craving the same story. The difference is that, at the end of the day, sports are decided on the field of competition, while political debates are decided by even more analysis and biased judgment by partisan news agencies. If I wanted my competitions determined like that, I’d watch more figure skating.
Even the analysis itself in politics is behind the curve. People love to credit or blame every single event that has taken place over the past four years on President Barack Obama. But doing so would be the same as blaming David Carr for his lack of production with the Texans — when he was sacked a record 76 times in 2002 — or crediting replacement−level running backs like Ron Dayne for running successfully behind the stacked Denver Broncos offensive lines that existed five or six years ago. Nothing in team events like sports and politics is done in a vacuum, so let’s stop acting like it is.
The fix here, clearly, is to integrate sports into politics. The Congressional Baseball Game has existed since 1909, with the Republican Party winning 41 games and the Democratic Party winning 37 games. But why don’t we put some stakes on it? In election years, each presidential candidate picks a team. The candidate himself has to play the whole game. We’d televise the whole shebang, add two more events — let’s say basketball and football — and declare that the winning candidate gets to choose whether to take each question first or second at the corresponding presidential debate.
Think about how much more we’d learn about our candidates in this kind of competition than we do in a debate. You can’t lie your way through a sporting event, nor can you make moves that only feign strength. We’d mike them up and see how they are as a teammate and a leader. We’d get to see if they have the confidence to remain tough in a high−pressure situation, or if they crash under the stress. No buzzword is going to save you from an 85 mph fastball with two outs in the bottom of the ninth.
While we’re at it, let’s get sports inside the debate itself. Chess boxing is already a thing, so why not debate boxing. After every two questions, the candidates go at each other for two minutes in the ring. A panel of judges score each round, and we get a conclusive — well... as conclusive as boxing gets — winner at the end of the night. Having to bounce back and forth between boxing and debating will show us just how cool our candidates are under pressure. It’ll also allow them to get their anger with each other out away from the debate pedestals, so that we will actually have time to get into the details of the issues at hand.
Maybe this whole plan is a little farfetched, but to be honest, if we implemented all of this, I know I’d tune into the elections. And the rest of the millions of people that gave Monday Night Football and the NLCS such impressive ratings on Monday night might just agree with me.
Ethan Sturm is a senior who is majoring in biopsychology. He can be reached at Ethan.Sturm@tufts.edu or @esturm90.