The White House and the World Series have split the prime-time spotlight in recent days. In St. Louis, Richmond and East Lansing, Mich., George Bush debated Bill Clinton and Ross Perot. In Atlanta, Dan Quayle debated Al Gore and James Stockdale. Meanwhile in Toronto and Atlanta, Tim McCarver debated himself.
There were no winners.
Every year baseball picks a champion; every four years the U.S. picks a president. The latter process closely parallels the former: There are endless primaries (the regular season), a brief flurry of debates (the playoffs) and Election Day (the World Series). And for an overlapping moment or two, voters and viewers are riveted by politics and baseball; unfortunately, George Will writes about both.
Granted, the presidential debates drew higher ratings than both of the league championship series. There were three reasons for this: The debates were commercial-free, lasted only 90 minutes apiece and contained absolutely no "expert analysis" while in progress.
This is where Tim McCarver figures in. Media darling McCarver is the preeminent overanalyst of his day. Ask him what time it is, and he'll tell you how a watch works. He can do 20 minutes on the height of infield grass. (And don't get him started on the Monroe Doctrine.) On CBS's baseball telecasts, McCarver—between Olympic gigs at the moment—is sometimes brilliant and sometimes boorish. Yes, he often makes good points, but, yes, he also makes too many points. He is The Man Who Knew Too Much.
The bottom line is this: If McCarver were sitting next to you at the ballpark saying all the things that he says during a broadcast, you'd get up and look for another seat by the third inning.
Speaking of getting up while someone's speaking, this is where the political folks figure back in.
Is there any significance to the fact that sitting in Ted Turner's box at Atlanta- Fulton County Stadium were an ex-president, an ex-president's wife and an ex-Senate candidate's ex-wife? It looks more like the head table at a nuclear-freeze fund-raiser than the crowd at a World Series. And did you notice that at the debates, George Bush kept checking his watch? What, did he think he was at a baseball game or something?
Here now are some actual comments from recent debate and baseball telecasts:
Stockdale: "Who am I? Why am I here?"