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Tonight's screen test: playoff or politics?

By Donovan Slack, Globe Staff  |  October 13, 2004


When the sisters of the Society of St. Margaret meet and pray this morning at their Roxbury convent, they will have a daunting decision to make: whether the television set in the lounge should be tuned tonight to the presidential debate or the American League Championship game.


''God is a Red Sox fan," Sister Carolyn Darr, the superior of the Episcopal religious order, said about the difficulty of weighing the merits of each. ''But I think he's a Kerry fan, too."


Hometown son and Democratic nominee John F. Kerry takes on President Bush tonight in a third and final debate in their fight for the Oval Office. But at the same time, the Red Sox are re-engaging a rivalry that has smoldered in the ashes of last year's Game 7 defeat by the New York Yankees. There may never be a starker choice in a city with two equally fundamental obsessions, politics and baseball. In stately homes and dorm rooms, nursing homes and bars, university auditoriums and hotel rooms on the campaign trail, decisions are being made about what to watch. None of them are easy.


Mayor Thomas M. Menino, a Democrat and ardent baseball fan, won't even say which he plans to watch. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who will be in Los Angeles tonight on a Kerry fund-raising trip, is straddling the line publicly. He said he plans to watch both the Red Sox and the debate at a private home with several televisions.


''I will be keeping an eye on both," Kennedy said through his spokesman, David Smith. ''I'll be curious to see who hits the most fouls, George Bush or the Yankees."


US Representative Martin T. Meehan was forced to take sides yesterday when an editor at The Eagle-Tribune in Lawrence drilled him on his loyalties. It was the first question asked at the editorial board meeting, Meehan's spokesman said.


''He said, 'Well, to be perfectly honest, I'm going to be watching the Red Sox and taping the debate to watch later,' " Matt Vogel said.


The congressman was careful later to reinforce his dedication to Kerry. The choice of what to watch live ''doesn't reflect my commitment to the senator at all," Meehan said in a phone interview.


At some local colleges and universities, administrators have decided to provide broadcasts of both the game and the debate, in the interest of maximizing political participation.


Even Harvard University has made concessions, installing an additional screen to broadcast the Sox, without sound, in the John F. Kennedy School of Government's forum, alongside the debate.


''I simply know one does not compete against a local sports team that's riding high," said Phil Sharp, acting director of the Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School. Sharp will be watching only the debate, ''as an obligation to my position," but he conceded that he might cast an occasional eye on the game.


During the other debates, the institute had political specialists on hand for questions and discussion, but Sharp said that tonight the school is providing only snacks and the debate broadcast. Could the pundits have declined to attend, preferring to watch the game? Sharp declined to say.


At Emerson College, which organized debate-watching evenings for the three prior presidential and vice presidential debates, organizers are also installing a second television in the auditorium for the game (and are planning to serve hot dogs).


Analysts will keep an eye on both screens and perhaps engage in some observations about Kerry's progress in relation to that of the Red Sox.


''If the Sox go up, his excitement level might increase, and if they're down, he might turn back to droning on in his Senate style," said J. Gregory Payne of the Department of Organizational and Political Communication, who is organizing the event.


The debate-game dilemma extends well outside the borders of Red Sox nation to New York, where fans and political literati are equally divided. David Halberstam, the journalist and prolific author who counts among his books tomes on baseball and politics, plans to watch the debate. But he's not happy about it.


''It's a really hard choice, and I think it's an unfair one," said Halberstam, who has homes in Massachusetts and New York.


Though often a Yankees fan, he is rooting for the Red Sox this year. ''I'm a divided soul," he said and then invoked William Faulkner, saying the rivalry puts ''the human heart in conflict with itself."


''I think the political gods should have done a better job of trying to schedule the debate when the National League teams are playing," he said.


Author John Updike said he didn't think the baseball-debate decision was nearly so dire. With the long commercial breaks in the game, Updike said, viewers should have enough time to flip back and forth and glean the important points from both broadcasts.


''I think people can straddle this one," said Updike, a Massachusetts resident and avid Red Sox fan who won't be watching either event, but playing bridge. ''Kerry and the Red Sox, they kind of go together like ham and eggs."


Ben Affleck, who is in Vancouver shooting ''Man About Town," said there may not be a harder decision for him.


''These are his two passions, obviously, and it was a tough choice," said Affleck's publicist, Ken Sunshine. ''After much consternation, he's decided he's going to watch the game live and tape the debate."


Globe correspondent Heather Allen contributed to this report.Donovan Slack can be reached at dslack@globe.com.


© Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

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Choices choices. Personally I'm gonna watch the game and stream the debate later on the internet, but it is annoying. You gotta love these places that are going to play the game on a seperate tv. I predict if its a close game that most of people watching the debate are gonna go next door to the hot dogs.

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Part of me finds this dillema pretty funny.


The other wishes we had better priorities, but then again, this debate is gonna be more of the candidates telling tall tales to get voters in bed, and many've said that most voters are either already set, or too disenfranchised to vote anyway. So, i guess its no big deal.


But for the love of piss, whoever wins, this year people really gotta watch the inagural address & state of the union ones, they get away with sayin too much shit here.


ps are the sox really that exciting this season?

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are the sox really that exciting this season?


No more than usual but every year feels like our year.


I just laughed in response to the article. Yes the debate has a larger impact on people´s lives but choosing the game over the debate is hardly the same as being apathetic towards politics. I think its fun to get drawn into the drama of sport. Hunter S. Thompson has taught me that. While politicians just talk at least in baseball we see players taking the initiative and using actions rather than words.

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ps are the sox really that exciting this season?


The answer is YES. Maybe even moreso than last year. Anyone who loves and follows the Red Sox can't help but get excited in the final weeks of the season. Like bucket said "every year feels like 'OUR' year."

Last year's game 7 debacle was heartbreaking for Boston fans. They had already started to paint the field at Fenway Park for the series. WE WAS ROBBED! A man lost his job over it. There were riots all over Boston. Cars were overturned in Kenmore Square (one of the upperclass Boston neighborhoods) This past January when the New England Patriots won the Superbowl (Yesssss!) People in Boston started chanting "Yankees Suck! Yankees Suck!" This rivalry runs deep. I actually cried when they lost game seven this year.


If I hadn't had tickets to the actual debate and limited access to Red Sox coverage, it would have been a very hard decision for me. I'm glad I went to the debate, but honestly, if I had tickets to that game instead? Or worse to BOTH? I don't know which ones I would have given away...Sometimes I don't know what I'm more rabid about...the Red Sox or politics.

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You silly BoSox fans, you're always happy to set yourself up for disappointment. It's liek a mass psychosis witht hat city. Every year, you set yourselves up, and every year you let you Yanks get you down. You oughta take some advice from a Phiilies fans like me, if you never expect your team to win a single game, you set yourself up to be pleasantly surprised a couple of times throughout the season.

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Fizz off you no-hope nancy.



:D There is a saying about how there is no one more pious than a convert. I love ya Bucket. I really do! BoSox '04!!!!


:D I'm really sad that Nomar is a Cubbie now. Jimmy Fallon and I can't walk around saying "Nomahh" anymore. Oh well, at least he's not a Yankee...

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There is a saying about how there is no one more pious than a convert. I love ya Bucket. I really do! BoSox '04!!!!


I swear this city just does things to people. One of my flatmates is from Sweden and he´s as kerrrazy about the Sox as me despite thinking previously that baseball was just another way of taking pot. :D



Oh well, at least he's not a Yankee...


I heard a worrying rumour about Pedro Matinez recently about where he might be next season.... :D

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AHH! Last night's game was so FUCKING awesome! The Sox breaking that tie in the 14th! That was beautiful! And right now their up 4-0 in the top of the 6th! Last I checked Trot Nixon was up at bat, 2 strikes no outs. C'mon Boston fans and Yank haters alike give all our hopes to Boston!!!

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Yeah I think it's a pretty valid excuse that I can't concentrate on my work until after the game tonight...however I hope that doesn't go from my Boston-born hairdresser, cause I have an appointment tonight, and he BETTER be paying attention! :D

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