The Presidential Debates: Competition at its Finest

Tomorrow night a spectacle will air on national television over several different channels that the whole country and many parts of the world will be watching. The stakes will be high, the moves will be scrutinized, and the developments will be unscripted. No, I am not talking about a sporting event. I am not talking about a reality TV show either. I am definitely not talking about some death defying stunt by David Blaine or Robbie Knievel. I am talking about the 2012 presidential debate.

I am not a political person. I have my beliefs and I do tend to vote a certain way but to be honest, I don’t think I would feel comfortable debating issues with anyone. I don’t follow local races and I am not someone who campaigns for candidates. For most of the year, I sadly could care less about politics. Scratch that, for most four year cycles, I could care less about politics…until the October and November months of the presidential election year of course. Go ahead, call me the biggest bandwagon political fan there is, it is the truth. Just as I don’t follow any of the traditional Summer Olympics sports until the sixteen days of the actual Olympics themselves, I don’t really start paying attention to politics until the leader of the free world is about to be decided.

These final two months are fun. I love watching the daily developments, the back-and-forth swings in the polls, and the frantic last minute campaigning. I enjoy the feeling of the whole country getting on fire for the ensuing significant decision. I get an adrenaline rush out of election night itself. But what I really crave, and what I get excited about, are the presidential debates, especially the first one.

I get goosebumps thinking about it. Two men are pushed out onto a small stage to battle it out in front of millions of people watching across the world. Years of hard work, risks, accomplishments, and undoubtedly luck lands them at this point. Each man has their family, supporters, and party hoping they will succeed. Likewise, each man has roughly the same amount of people hoping they will fail. I can’t imagine the unbelievable pressure that each candidate must feel. I can’t imagine what the drive from wherever they are staying in Denver to the campus must feel like or what it must feel like the moment the debate producer tells the candidates to move from the staging area to their respective podiums. At that point, although they both have millions of supporters, they are all alone. Talk about great TV!

When the cameras roll tomorrow night, it will be Barack Obama and Mitt Romney going back and forth trying to prove to America that they are the right person for the most important job on the planet. What possibly more could be at stake? School kids from coast-to-coast will tune in as a homework assignment. Sports bars will take a break from MLB and whatever college football game is on and switch to the drama. College Democrats and College Republicans will hold viewing parties. Millions of cocky know-it-alls will stay glued to their TV screens, constantly tweeting support to their candidate and snide remarks to the opposition. It just does not get much better.

Because I love sports so much, I naturally like these debates. At the root of sports is competition, and that is what tomorrow night is all about. Preparation, game plan, dealing with the unexpected, and execution are all aspects that both athletics and these debates hold in common. On Wednesday evening, Obama and Romney will take the hours of practice and time poured into mock debates and use it to help execute the game plan that their closest political advisors have ironed out for them. Of course nothing goes perfectly and I will watch with great interest and enjoyment when the candidates are forced to revert course and change their strategy around a little bit. Lately a hot topic on sports radio shows has centered on what NFL quarterbacks are best at improvising when a play blows up and they are left to produce something out of nothing. Well, what candidate will land on his feet better when an off the wall question is asked or if a train of thought is lost? In general, who is the better competitor?

Besides the competition aspect of the debates, I just truly enjoy the importance and scrutiny of it all. Tomorrow night is a part of history. Twelve years from now, CSPAN will be showing the rerun. SNL will hang on every little thing the candidates say and do so they can parody the hell out of it come Saturday night. There very well could be exchanges and sound bites said on Wednesday that will never be forgotten. Obama vs. Romney will be the number one water cooler discussion item on Thursday. The front page of all major newspapers is reserved for the recap/commentary of the duel. Twitter will explode, hash tags will be utilized, and social media will fight over who won the debate. No doubt about it, tomorrow is a big day for our nation.

If I could offer some general advice I would encourage all of the people who have not made up their minds yet on who they will vote for to first, obviously, watch the debate. Secondly, view it by yourself on CSPAN. If you watch it with friends, you risk having their slants rub off on you. If you watch the debate on CSPAN, you will get the most neutral viewing experience as possible. It goes without saying that if you watch Fox News you will get a conservative twist and if you watch any other cable news station you will get a liberal twist. Realize that many people and many television stations have already made up their mind on has won the debate…20 hours before opening statements are even set to begin.

Enjoy the debate tomorrow! If you hate politics, if you don’t care about the issues, and if you could care less about the awesome dynamic of competition on display, watch it for this reason: Two men representing two different ideologies can share a stage and civilly debate the issues facing this country. No machine guns, no kidnappings, or no intimidation tactics will be used to settle differences. Rather, it will be the power of persuasiveness, reason, and wit…just another little reminder that we are fortunate enough to live in the best damn country in the world. Don’t Blink.