10/08/2004: And let's not mention the fact that the debates are a scam anyway...
King Kaufman at Salon takes on a question of earth shattering import (premium content; if you don't subscribe to Salon you'll have to see a short ad for a "day pass"):
Friday's second presidential debate conflicts with Game 3 of the Yankees-Twins series, the ballgame starting around 8:15 p.m. EDT and the debate at 9. One reader asks, "Don't you think it's lame that baseball couldn't schedule the playoff games around the presidential debates?"
My first reaction was no, but since this reader was my boss, David Talbot, I figured I should listen further. "Baseball is the all-American game and has particular symbolic significance -- hence all the patriotic displays at games after 9/11," he wrote in an e-mail.
"The country is at war, the war is the focus of the presidential campaign, this is a historic election. This is why the debates, even the vice-presidential one, are getting record ratings. It seems to me that it would not unduly inconvenience the league or the teams" to reschedule a game around the debate.
You won't find many harsher critics of Major League Baseball, the company, than this column, but I have to back baseball on this one.
I hate to disagree with the boss, especially since he's been so good to me in the years since the Christmas Party Incident, but why should baseball, of all American businesses -- including Salon -- have to change what it does, surrendering business during its peak commercial season, to accommodate a debate? Should the bars close? Broadway shows? Movies? It's just one night for them. Baseball's on the clock, racing the wet weather.
And anyway, the baseball games were scheduled first. It's been true since 1995 that the first few Fridays in October, there are baseball playoff games scheduled. Couldn't the debate have been scheduled for last Monday, a pre-playoff day off? The third and final debate is Wednesday, when there are two League Championship Series games scheduled. Couldn't it have been pushed back to Oct. 22, a scheduled Friday off before the World Series?
"You know, we have this problem every four years, almost on the same nights," says Rich Levin of the commissioner's office. "We make our schedule pretty far in advance, way before we know anything about when the debates are going to be. But baseball's on a tight schedule because of the weather. Baseball's mostly an outdoor game, and we really can't afford to give up dates."
Levin said the Commission on Presidential Debates did not approach baseball about changing the schedule and he's unaware of any complaints from the public this year despite the high ratings for the debates. In the past, he notes, having playoff baseball has provided a network with a good excuse for not showing the usually low-rated debates.
I'm willing to speculate, and I don't think it's hard to guess what the response might be. And I think that would be fine. I don't see a problem with letting Americans make an adult choice between watching a presidential debate and a ballgame, or taping one and watching it later. I mean, I know who I'm going to vote for. I don't know what's going to happen in the Yankees-Twins game.
Am I wrong on this one? I don't think Talbot's being unreasonable here. It wouldn't take much to accommodate the debate if the commission were also willing to give. Starting the debate at 7 p.m. EDT and delaying the start of the night baseball game to 9 p.m. would allow most of the game to be played in prime time with no overlap, though it would be rough on West Coast viewers wanting to watch the candidates. Even starting the debate at 8 would be an improvement, letting viewers choose between missing the second hour of the debate or the first two or three innings of the game.
I just disagree.
Len on 10.08.04 @ 01:03 PM CST