We love to compare debates to prize fights, especially in the news industry. In the days leading up to the debate, in the days following it, and live during the actual event, those of us in cable news will be talking about who hit the hardest, which punches landed, which punches missed, who was able to slip jabs, who had the best strategy, and who executed. Then we’ll raise the imaginary hand of the winner. Ding. Ding. Ding.
But here’s the thing: Most debates aren’t boxing matches. Romney won last week when President Obama failed to come out of his corner, uttering “No Mas” before the match even started. We didn’t see haymakers and body shots from the president; we saw feints and daydreaming. Now, with Vice President Joe Biden and Rep. Paul Ryan toe-to-toe, I’m supposed to get excited for them to slug it out?
I’m not holding my breath.
Usually, debates resemble middle school dances more than championship bouts. The debaters exchange idle chatter, trying to avoid humiliating themselves. They stand across from each other, unsure of when it’s OK make eye contact, and when it gets “weird.” Awkward posture(ing) abounds. You can just tell everyone has too much cologne on. God forbid a slow song comes on, and they have to go toe-to-toe for a few tense minutes (leaving room for Jesus, of course)—they spend that time worrying more about what their friends think than they do about the person in arms’ reach. When it’s over, each person will try to convince us he or she was totally killing it out there.
That’s what we’re going to see: A middle school dance. The music will be dreadful, and the handshakes will be sweaty. Joe Biden will play the hard-charging chaperone, frantically trying to protect his school’s honor.
And Paul Ryan will come out with his hair combed, looking like he’s wearing one of his daddy’s old suits.
And every time they get close to each other, we—the tweeting peanut gallery—will go bananas whispering sweet (snarky) nothings @ each other.
God, I hope they play some Coolio.