Trump, the debates and the NFL

As I am sure most of you are aware, Donald Trump is complaining about the presidential debate schedule. He claims it was arranged as part of a pro-Clinton plot to reduce viewership, since two of the three presidential debates will air opposite prime time NFL games. As I am also sure most of you are aware, the debate schedule was set a year ago by the bi-partisan debate commission, co-chaired by a Democrat and a Republican.

There are three points of interest in this latest brouhaha:

a) I have been wondering for a while now whether Trump might try to scuttle the debates altogether. Josh Marshall wrote a detailed post this weekend about the calculus behind such a decision. Certainly, a prelude to refusing to participate would be to assert that the debates are fundamentally unfair. This won’t be the last Trump complaint about the debates, but it could be part of a larger strategy. I’m not so bold as to predict Trump will blow up the debates. But it would not surprise me.

b) having said that, this business about the debates conflicting with “major NFL games” is a particularly weak reason for not participating. Debates have aired opposite NFL games before and still did fine and if Trump is convinced he’s such an irresistible TV draw, then he’s got nothing to worry about. Besides, the two games in question are hardly “major.” The Monday night game on September 26 pits the Falcons against the Saints. The Falcons, after a fast start last year, finished 8-8. The Saints limped to a 7-9 season. As NFL games go, this is a relative snoozer. Indeed, if you ranked all the Monday night games this year by quality of matchup, market size and buzz factor, Saints/Falcons might be the single least interesting game on the schedule.

The Sunday night matchup scheduled alongside the October 9 debate has more appeal – the New York Giants vs. the Green Bay Packers. The New York market, the high profile and super contending Packers and the national following of both teams has the makings of a high ratings game. But it’s also week 5 of the NFL season and the Giants are no great shakes.

Trump fails this basic test of football knowledge.

c) in some ways, the most revealing part of this episode is that Trump insisted the NFL contacted him specifically to complain about the debate schedule. The NFL categorically rejected that assertion. The only explanation for Trump’s claim is that he is, in fact, a pathological liar. It’s not the most important thing he has or will lie about, but its relative innocuousness is what makes it so telling. Jiminy crickets, why lie about *that?*


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