The Big Mac Blog

Political coverage now borrowing from ESPN’s Game Day

Sign at McCarran International Airport welcoming visitors to the third 2016 Presidential Debate in Las Vegas.
Sign at McCarran International Airport welcoming visitors to the third 2016 Presidential Debate in Las Vegas. Star-Telegram

It is with great sadness to know that this is the end – the final debate is here.

What are we going to do when the election from the far reaches of hell is actually over? The process to win the White House in 2016 began what feels like back in January. Of 2012.

It only feels like 14 years ago when the GOP had so many candidates that the networks needed a “kid’s table” debate that featured the second-tier applicants, and the other that featured Donald Trump.

Las Vegas is a custom-made fit for the third and last presidential debate between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton. Really hoping some Vegas showgirls and the giant non-man eating but man-eating tigers from Siegfried and Roy show up and are turned loose on the candidates.

We are now only weeks away from the finish of what has been the most disgusting yet tragically entertaining election cycle, perhaps ever and certainly in the modern era. Checkers has nothing on deleted emails, and Billy Bush and “locker room talk.”

This election process has revealed the worst of all us – we talk big about eating peas and broccoli but in the end we are addicted to cookies and Coke. There is a reason why Rupert Murdoch is a billionaire.

Ratings for Round 1 of Hil’ v Hair was the most watched Presidential TV debate in history. Ratings for Round 2 dropped off from the first but still drew big numbers.

We talk about how much we prefer the intellectual conversations and “real debates” on domestic policy behind a Harvard-issue lectern but we’d much rather watch two people bite and call each other names in a trash dumpster.

Equally as alarming in this election cycle is the staggering and alarming amount of similarities in the media that exist between the (highly sexist) coverage of sports and politics. Sports, news, weather, politics, entertainment - it’s all just TV. The lesson here for this kids, just be on TV. However you can.

Throughout this process the role of the media has been criticized, often justifiably, for the timing of some stories, as well as a preference for one candidate over another (hint – it’s the female).

Most journalists do drift towards ideologues, who don’t make as much money as the antichrist executive bosses, so we tend to herd with concepts that too often in practice are crushed by reality, or an endless stream of red tape and the career bureaucrats who are staring at their watch dreaming of 5 o’clock.

CNN, MSNBC and Fox News have set up in Las Vegas near the debate site with a temporary studio, complete with a barricade behind the set so “fans” can watch. “Fans” can be seen holding signs for one candidate, or an agenda, and just lean over a fence watching the production that includes “expert analysts” who range from former White House staffers to career media pundits.

During CNN’s “pre-game” coverage of the Debate No. 3, the University of Nevada Las Vegas marching band played leading to a commercial break.

If that sounds familiar because it is the exact same set up as ESPN’s wildly popular College Game Day; it’s become the top college sports destination where the talking heads set up and fans watch former players/coaches and career media members talk for television.

Game Day remains the single most baffling successful creation in media to date: Nothing is actually happening. But the chance to be on TV routinely inspires thousands and thousands to wait for hours just to watch people talk; the crowd makes for a wonderful scene on the screen and it has re-defined “on-site” TV.

It’s a simple format that follows the tried and true male-approved model: A moderator, a handful of panelists, make sure the girls who are allowed to be on are pretty, save for the token exceptions, run a few pre-packaged “news” pieces, and just talk. For hours.

We men are allowed to look like a pile of re-processed dog food while the women need to have Michelle Obama arms, preferably blonde hair and wear something that ensures they can be objectified.

While Fox is killed for doing this, CNN is not that much better. Neither is MSNBC. Same for ESPN. In fact, no large media outlet does not follow this format.

The pundits will gather - CNN sometimes has as many as eight with poor Anderson Cooper trying to direct gridlock - and break down body language, confidence to “who won” the debate, the day or the polls. And no panel show would be worth a bleep without predictions; the only thing missing is Fox news veteran analyst Charles Krauthammer putting on a giant mascot head of one of the candidates to predict a winner.

Before the debate begins, the networks will “throw it to” a sideline reporter near the stage to “get a sense” of what is going in the respective candidate’s camp. After the debate, all networks will air the equivalent of post-game breakdowns complete with interviews with members of each candidate’s “team.”

As viewers we are accustomed to this as the set up to watch a football game, and now political coverage, too.

The irony is that there is minimal substance to either, but it’s television, and TV - sorry - trumps all.