Politics vs. football: voters lose

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, September 27, 2014

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Few things in Texas are more romanticized than high school football on Friday nights.

After barbecue, the Alamo and the cowboy on the plains, it’s one of the primary state symbols. A best-selling book, movie and a fantastic television show all tapped into the love affair between Texans and the game played under the bright lights in big cities and small towns across the state.

Richard Greene

Richard Greene

This love affair translates to empty homes on Friday nights between September and November as fans are drawn to the field. I recall one crook taking advantage of this, breaking into the houses of players over several weeks until he was shot dead one night by a father who was missing a game.

Unfortunately, the two people duking it out for governor didn’t take into account high school football when scheduling their first of two debates, which was last Friday at 6 p.m.

I know not everyone is like me; I can count on a single hand the Fridays between September and November for the past 25 years that I wasn’t at a football stadium. But do the math.

There are 1,102 11-man football teams in Texas and approximately 551 games every week. Use a conservative attendance estimate of 1,815, and you’d have a million people at games on any given Friday. Factor in the Allens, Southlake Carrolls and Austin-area suburbs, where far more people attend games, and the numbers skyrocket.

Admittedly, even if the debate would have been held on a normal weeknight without the competition of high-school football, viewership probably wouldn’t have changed much. (Though I was surprised to learn that in the 2010 race, 27 percent – 4.9 million – of the 13.2 million registered voters cast ballots.)

In a race where both candidates have gone out of their way to prove they are more down-home and in touch with the ordinary Texan, you’d have figured someone in their campaigns would have pointed out this scheduling conflict.

Then again, sports and politicians just don’t seem to mix. A great example was the recent interview of Wendy Davis on Sports Radio KTCK 1310 as she pointed out that she was looking forward to having more time to attend TCU games, a statement made despite the fact that she’s running for governor.

Who can also forget John Kerry on the presidential campaign trail saying it was good to be in Buckeye country while making a stop in Michigan. I’m not trying to make this a partisan column, but those examples just happen to be on the left. Barack Obama has proven his sports chops with his NCAA bracket picks over the years.

It seems that either side might have played up how they couldn’t make a Friday night debate because they were wanting to hit a game themselves. It probably would have played better than their positions on Obamacare and the lip service on fixing school finance.

But maybe that was the reason they did schedule it for a fall Friday, so no one would watch and they could spin the results to the voters.

They will hold another debate Tuesday in Dallas. That’s the night for varsity volleyball matches, so I guess they truly don’t want sportswriters to watch. But again, I suppose that’s what DVRs are for.

Richard Greene is the Messenger’s sports editor.

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