3:48 PM CDT, October 22, 2012
Chicago has a TV choice to make tonight, between a presidential debate on foreign policy and that Bears-Lions game at Soldier Field on “Monday Night Football.”
And despite what you may have told yourself, the fact that you have a digital video recorder to tape the one while you watch the other won’t work. That won’t save you. You’ll have to make a choice.
Football sure is compelling. You’re making the socially safe bet if you turn on the game, with almost a century of history and violent grudges between the teams, and the promise of more thrills to come: Those long throws for touchdowns. A Bears linebacker standing over a fallen quarterback, the fans shrieking, the linebacker’s arms raised in triumph, as if to say, “Are you not entertained?”
And we’ll be reminded of important and tragic plays of the past, of Lions receiver Chuck Hughes and the great Bears linebacker Dick Butkus (many of us remember Hughes dying that day) and of Lions tackle Alex Karras and Bears tight end Mike Ditka, who later became coach and famously told an obnoxious fan, “Aww, get yer mouth shut!!”
Of course it’s entertaining. It’s Bears football. Amazing, exhilarating, and what’s more, if you bet right, you could make a few bucks.
But then there’s that other TV business, which isn’t as exhilarating and probably not as entertaining. There’s nothing safe about it, and it’s downright scary.
It’s the last presidential debate between President Barack Obama, the Democrat, and his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.
They’ll discuss those Americans murdered in Libya and what the president did or didn’t do about it. They’ll talk about our place in the world, and whether America can or should exert power and influence in the troubled Middle East during a time of domestic economic ruin. They’ll talk about China and Russia, and where things stand.
I know people are saying they can DVR the debate and watch the game, or vice versa, but it won’t work like that. If you watch the game, and stay up late, you won’t really stay up well past midnight to then watch the debate and the analysis.
You know you won’t.
And if you watch the 90-minute debate, and the analysis afterward, are you then going to sit through a game for three hours? Somewhere along that timeline, you’ll hear about the score and you’ll feel betrayed. Or happy. But you’ll hear about it.
Either that or you’ll be up very late, and each event demands concentration.
So the DVR won’t save you.
You can watch men getting paid to scramble each other’s brains and bodies. Or you can watch men scrambling for the chance to project extreme power across the world, power that is always carried, in the end, by young Americans who’d probably rather watch football than hump over hills while trying to spot explosive devices.
Football is dangerous. But in foreign policy you can’t appeal the ruling on the field. There are no do-overs or yellow flags.
The first choice, football, is much more fun. It’s an escape, a reality show not much different than other reality shows, although this one doesn’t offer the Kardashian women.
And the other is about politics and policy. It’s not about escape or the Kardashian women. It is about something else. It is about the future of your country.
If that’s not more important to you than football, don’t watch. We’ll respect that choice. We’re Americans, and we’re free to ignore politics or embrace it, and hop back and forth, whatever we choose.
But please, do the rest of us a favor. Don’t vote either.
You don’t have to tell anyone you didn’t care about the debate, that you’d rather watch men slam into each other for money. Just keep it to yourself. Otherwise, it might become embarrassing some day.
And since you didn’t even take the time to watch the debate, for the next four years you might want to remember what Ditka said, each time you’re compelled to offer your opinion on foreign affairs and weigh in on the policies of a President Romney or a President Obama.
You could get yer mouth shut. Please.
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