In A Swing State: Cardinals Fans/Political Junkies Chose What To Watch And When

You might think that choosing between a key presidential debate and a crucial Cardinals game  airing at approximately the same time Monday night would be quite a dilemma for all St. Louisans. But consider Sue Williams’ plight.

Dancing with the Stars was on, too.

Ron and Sue Williams of Florissant in the foreground. At left, Liz Lippa of University City.

Williams, of Florissant, is a member of OASIS, an adult learning program. She was attending a class on the media and politics when she was asked how she would handle the concurrent events. And that’s when she raised — completely out of left field as it were — Dancing with the Stars. Actually, that show on ABC only conflicted with the first hour or so of the National League Championship Series. ABC  aired the third and final presidential debate at 8 p.m., as did NBC, CBS, MSNBC, FOX, CNN, PBS and C-SPAN.

Other members of the class, including Liz Lippa of University City, Virginia Siemer of St. Charles, Connie Williamson of Creve Coeur, Marty Newman of Chesterfield, and Elsa Hirzel of St. Louis, all took different approaches.

Hirzel said she would be out all evening, attending a CPR class and wouldn’t even be able to get home to set up her recording device. She regretted that, but the CPR training might have come in handy to resuscitate the Cards long about the third inning.

Ron Williams, Sue’s husband, said he would tape the Cardinals game and the debate with his VCRs. (Yes, Ron still has those throwback machines, but denies having a rotary dial telephone.) He volunteered to tape Dancing with the Stars, but Sue said she would probably catch up with that later on a website. The Obama-Romney faceoff was the most important event for her. “I want to see the whole debate,” she said.

Alexander Schuster

Some members of a younger cohort relied on the Internet and social media. Bill Streeter, 45, of south St. Louis, interviewed at Mokabe’s Coffeehouse on south Grand, said simply: “Cardinals on TV; debate on the Internet, problem solved. I’m also watching the debate with my twitter feed. Best use of twitter ever.”

And sitting not far away was Alexander Schuster, 25, “I will be DVRing the debate, and I’ll find out about the baseball game from facebook, because I really don’t care.”

Organizers of debate watch parties cared a lot. One such event was held at the Contemporary Art Museum (CAM) in Grand Center where a featured attraction was PBS New Hour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan, who provided analysis for debate watchers. The event was co-sponsored by Beyond November, a collaboration of the St. Louis Beacon, the Nine Network and St. Louis Public Radio. It hosts the site where you are reading this story now.

In the early morning hours, officials with Beyond November and CAM put their heads together to see if somehow they could provide a telecast of the debate with the sound on … and perhaps the game with the sound off. Then they would need to get the word out through social media so baseball fans would know they would not be bereft if they came to CAM.

As first,it seemed impossible. CAM had only one line to its television sets that could carry one channel at a time. But then Unitey Kull, director of programs and audience development, came up with a brilliant solution, one reaching back to say, 1960 or so when Kennedy was facing off with Nixon.

Rabbit ears.

At the CAM event the audience had their debate and got to watch the Cardinals, too. They saw lots of swings and misses, no matter where they turned.

Reported for Beyond November by Richard H. Weiss, managing editor, and Matt Blickenstaff, free lance writer.

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