Author: Mallory Nezam
Thursday, Sept. 4 was set to be a night of many showdowns: the Washington Redskins versus The New York Giants, and the NFL versus Senator John McCain. No, McCain is not a football star, but his acceptance speech as Presidential Nominee at the Republican National Convention was scheduled to take place dangerously close to the time of the NFL opening season game. Traditionally, the game is held on the first Thursday post-Labor Day, around 8:00 or 8:30 p.m. However, this year the NFL and NBC agreed to move the game ahead 90 minutes to accommodate the important acceptance speech that set the tone of McCain’s campaign.
Most of my football-oblivious friends laughed when I told them about the time change. Football over politics?! Well, I don’t know about that. A time change does not suggest a preference for football over politics. Rather, the NFL and TV networks did their best to accommodate a variety of preferences. The new starting time did not affect the football game. The show went on regardless of whether it began at 7 or 8:30 p.m. Viewers interested in the speech who were also die-hard football fans could watch both. Also, with this time change McCain’s viewers were not usurped by a competing event.
This American preoccupation with football is nothing new. It’s our quintessential sport. But the politics of our country are important, too—especially in such a critical election. The difference seems to lie in that an interest in football is an option, whereas many would see educating oneself about presidential candidates a democratic responsibility. But then again, this is a democracy, which means that we have the right to decide between watching football or a political speech, so that argument can get cyclical.
I guess the concern, though, is to what extent American citizens care about politics and how much effort they are willing to put into a system that theoretically runs on their participation. Luckily, air times were coordinated so that we did not have to choose between football and politics, but if they hadn’t changed, what should the American public have done? If the game went into overtime and cut into the beginning of the senator’s speech, were we supposed to have switched channels during the game’s most riveting minutes?
I would have. I think this election marks a very pivotal moment in American politics, history and culture. I want to participate in that in every way I can. Also, I could watch a rerun of the game later if I wanted to.
Despite all the drama surrounding the proximity of the two events, McCain’s speech rounded up a hefty amount of viewers; more, in fact, than Barack Obama’s. The reasons for this I’ll leave to be determined by the political analysts, but let’s not forget about football. It’s possible that the very game that everyone thought McCain would have to battle for viewer attention actually helped him up the number of viewers. Why not just flip the channel after the game and stay in front of the tube for an extra hour? Wait… football engaging people in politics? Who said the two always had to be at odds?
Regardless of the reasons that viewers tuned in, it’s good that a lot of people watched the speech. Isn’t that what’s important after all? That large amounts of Americans are informing themselves about the presidential candidates running in this epic election? Well, I guess that and also that Giants beat Redskins 16-7.
Mallory Nezam is a senior Religious Studies major. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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