If you were conspiracy minded — and who among us doesn’t have a touch of that lurking somewhere in your personality? — you might swear that Donald Trump’s shenanigans were part of a plot to boost the viewership for the first Republican presidential debate.
This past weekend, I heard a lot of talk about the Donald and the first Republican debate. The Republican folks, regardless of whether they think Trump is great for “telling the truth” or consider him an oddball gloryhound, will be watching, and at least one diehard Democrat conceded that he probably would tune in just to see what kind of weirdness the Trumpster might produce. Why not? It might be good TV. As one of the people who talked about Trump kept saying, “he’s entertaining!”
And I suppose he is, in the same perverse way that a train wreck or a messy public divorce of Hollywood celebs might be viewed as entertaining.
What does that mean for the other Republicans? It means that you hope that your poll numbers are good enough that you get to share the stage with the guy who’s getting all of the press. The ratings for this first debate probably will get the highest ratings for any debate, ever, that isn’t between the two nominated candidates, and you sure as heck would want to be present to have that big audience checking you out. And if the Donald implodes — which inevitably will happen, if it hasn’t happened by then, anyway — and you can come across as an appealing alternative, so much the better. If you’re not on stage, you don’t get any of that crucial face time before a national audience.
Could Trumpelstiltskin have concocted all of this hullabaloo as part of some devious political strategy to command as much attention as possible and suck all of the oxygen away from the Ds? Who knows? But it’s a pretty good conspiracy theory, isn’t it? In fact, it’s just the kind of conspiracy theory that the Donald himself would likely latch onto.
Hey, the Super Bowl is starting in a few minutes!!!
Meh. As I’ve listened to the pre-game hoopla — which sometimes feel like it officially started before the two teams actually playing in the game were even determined — I realize I don’t give a flying fig about the game, or the two teams. I don’t care about Deflategate. I don’t care about Richard Sherman, or the Seattle running back who is trying to be Duane Thomas reincarnated. I don’t care whether Bill Belichick looks like a grumpy slob in a slouchy sweatshirt hoodie.
Heck, I don’t even care about the commercials, whether there are racy efforts that have been banned, whether the Budweiser Clydesdales or Spuds McKenzie make a reappearance, or whether the ratings set a new record — which is probably the only thing that the NFL really cares about, in any event.
How many people in America, really, care about the Super Bowl? I think more people really care about the college football national championship than the Super Bowl. It’s so overhyped and overblown, it’s hard to really care much about it if your team isn’t playing.
Earlier this year people were writing about how the interest in college football is declining. This story is one of several I saw pursuing that theme.
Guess what? The news that college football is on the outs with fans might be a bit . . . wrong. They’ve now determined that the Ohio State-Alabama game in the Sugar Bowl drew the largest audience in cable TV history — 28.2 million viewers, which just edged out the impressive number who tuned in for the earlier Rose Bowl semifinal game between Oregon and Florida State. And the size of the Sugar Bowl audience is even more striking when you consider that (1) the experts were uniformly predicting an Alabama blowout and (2) the game didn’t begin until 9 a.m. and didn’t end until about 1 a.m. Eastern time.
I’d like to attribute the record-setting audience to the rabid fans in Buckeye Nation, and the fact that every living soul in the state of Ohio watched the game. I’m sure that OSU was a big draw, and Alabama, too, but I think the real reason for the huge ratings is that the college football playoff has introduced a new and interesting element to the sport. When you consider that, under the old BCS system, neither Ohio State nor Oregon would likely be playing in the championship game, you get a sense of the shot of adrenalin and excitement that the playoff concept has produced.
American sports fans like to see people earn championships on the field, not through some subjective rankings system. Don’t be surprised if the tremendous ratings both college football playoff games received on January 1 gives a shot in the arm to efforts to increase the number of playoff teams to eight — and sooner rather than later.
I’m glad to see that the American people are paying attention to this election. I wonder whether the significantly increased viewership for this debate may have been influenced, at least in part, by a desire on the part of some fed-up voters who are sick of silly attack ads and the squawking of the punditocracy, the pollsters, and the spin jockeys, and just wanted to see President Obama and Mitt Romney in their unfiltered state, going toe to toe. I imagine that most people who watched the debate thought it was a worthwhile and interesting experience, and will encourage their friends to watch the next one. I’ll bet that the audience for the second debate will be larger still.
I hope that is the case, and I hope that the viewers also are reaching their own conclusions — not about who won or lost a mere debate, or who looked more “presidential,” but about which candidate is best suited for a very tough and important job. After all, that is the ultimate question that voters must decide.