I am looking forward to a big primetime event this evening.
Millions of Americans will tune in. We will be inspired. We will stand up and cheer. By the time it’s over, we will feel that life is worth living and that the country’s troubles are only temporary, although some of us will be embittered by the opposing side’s obstructionist tactics.
By now you’ve probably sensed what I’m talking about. Not Barack Obama’s speech on the economy but the Packers-Saints game!
There is nothing like watching large men in padded outfits run at each other in pursuit of an elusive spheroid to remind you why America is great.
There are obvious parallels — two opposing teams squaring off against each other. Only one can win! But at no point in the process will anyone’s credit rating be endangered, except for that one guy who keeps betting too optimistically on Drew Brees’s yardage. Like the speech, the game is something that probably will have no discernible immediate impact on the economy, with the added bonus that I won’t feel guilty if I wander off to eat nachos in the middle. And we’ll actually want people to punt!
Once, presidential speeches were more interesting than football. At least this is what I hear. The president had exciting things to say about the gold standard and the League of Nations and what we had to fear (fear itself.) Meanwhile, football was played without padding, by Ivy League schools, and the only people who watched it were characters from F. Scott Fitzgerald novels. Oratory was comparatively exciting, given that what it was compared to was “staying home to hear Uncle read Dickens aloud” or “contracting cholera.” People kept track of rhetorical tropes with the urgency and excitement that they now apply to football stats. “Did you see that paranomasia?” they asked. “This is how the game is played!” “It wasn’t anything compared to his zeugma last year,” their friends would sniff.
Then fortunately someone invented the Internet so we never had to do anything like that ever again.
Now we have to be entertained, every minute. At least one congressman plans not to attend the speech so he can tweet about it instead. Oration doesn’t cut it in prime time anymore. Let’s watch the Packers! That requires less preparation, and maybe it will be effective as some sort of stimulus if the commercials are convincing enough.
Maybe I am wrong and there are magic words that the president is planning to use to jumpstart the economy and galvanize viewers. But I have the sense that those words are “And now, the football.” Even Karl Rove is not optimistic about the speech, and Karl Rove thinks Social Security isn’t a Ponzi scheme, so you can see the sort of wild-eyed optimist he is. Unless the speech includes the announcement that there is a magical jobs-creating lever in the Oval Office, and Barack Obama has finally decided to push it, we’re bound to be disappointed.
But I’m sure the talk will be nice. I like good oratory as much as the next guy — which is to say, I’d really prefer to watch a football game.