Monday, October 1, 2012

A Bipartisan Non-Drinking Debate Game

A Bipartisan Non-Drinking Debate Game

To be honest, non-drinking is optional.  This game adapts easily to shots.  But here’s the dilemma that the game attempts to resolve:

On Wednesday, October 3rd, the first U.S. Presidential Debate of 2012 occurs.  Many of us (including me) are hosting debate-watching parties, excellent excuses for getting together with friends interested in politics.  The problem with debate-watching parties is that often attendees (and hosts) don’t pay much attention to the debates.  Instead, they drink, eat, and chat.  Which of course is the point of most parties.  But what if you, and most of your friends, actually want to watch the debate as well as enjoy conviviality?

I suggest having a contest . . . an easily played game that requires paying attention to what the nominees and the moderator are saying.  To persuade people to play, have a prize.  For example, I have an eight-year-old John Kerry Frisbee that would be a swell reward for winning.  I also have an extra Alben Barkley sunflower campaign button.  If these don’t move you (or you don’t have overflow campaign memorabilia), try a six-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

Procedure:   In any event, invite your friends to come over at least an hour before the debate.  Have plenty of drinks (alcoholic and non-), plus some sweet and some savory snacks (reserve full dinner for election night).  Download this game sheet, and hand it out, along with pencils. Have people make their guesses/predictions, and sign their sheets. Collect the sheets, shuffle them, and hand them out randomly, so that people will score them relatively accurately.  Pour the second round of drinks and start to watch the actual debate. (Third and fourth rounds are permissible during ad breaks.) 

Rationale: Your guests should be paying attention because (1) they want to win and are trying to remember what answers they gave; because (2) they’re among friends, so they want to be fair; and because (3) for many questions, they must count the number of occurrences (of a phrase, of a mention, etc.).  Occasional disputes about whether an answer is true or false will happen, which is all to the good.  This is a party, after all.  Once the debate is over, calibrate the game sheet (every correct answer is awarded one point), name a winner, and award the snazzy prize.  More drinks can then be enjoyed.

Outcome:  Your debate-viewing party people will have really watched the debate, without sacrificing vocal interaction and friendly ribbing.  This strategy should work whether it is a mixed- (Republican and Democratic) or single-party group.

The following is a sample game sheet for the first upcoming debate, on domestic policy.  You certainly can adapt the questions to fit issues you think are most important, and in the future change the questions to mesh with debates that have different focuses.  Principals in the 10/3 debate are:  President Obama, Governor Romney, and Moderator Jim Lehrer.  The lack of honorifics in the questions below should not be read as a sign of disrespect but as a sign of saving printer ink.

Debate Game:  10/3/2012

_____Obama wears a blue tie; Romney wears a red tie.  [T]  [F]

_____Lehrer asks a question about voter suppression.  [T]  [F]

_____Romney says the word ‘abortion’ more than Obama uses the phrase ‘women’s health.’ [T]  [F]

_____Romney mentions Paul Ryan more than Obama mentions Joe Biden. [T]  [F]

_____Obama says ‘ummh’ more than Romney says ‘if you will.’ [T]  [F]

_____Romney laughs (ha-ha) more than Obama flashes a big smile. [T]  [F]

_____Lehrer asks about Republican support of Todd Akin. [T]  [F]

_____Obama uses the phrase ‘economic patriotism’ more than three times. [T]  [F]

_____Romney uses the phrase ‘tax cuts’ more than ten times. [T]  [F]

_____Lehrer asks about the auto bailout. [T]  [F]

_____Obama mentions his wife Michelle more times than Romney mentions his wife Ann. [T]  [F]

_____Romney uses the phrase ‘saving Medicare’ more than Obama does. [T]  [F]

_____Obama uses the phrase ‘saving Social Security’ more than Romney does. [T]  [F]

_____Lehrer asks about Wall Street regulation. [T]  [F]

_____Romney uses the phrase ‘Middle Class’ more than Obama does. [T]  [F]

_____Obama uses the phrase ‘1%’ more than five times. [T]  [F]

_____Romney gets more standing ovations than does Obama. [T]  [F]

_____Lehrer asks about infrastructure. [T]  [F]

_____Obama looks down and scribbles in a notebook or equivalent more than Romney does. [T]  [F]

_____Romney makes the three-point sprinkler turn (left-middle-right full-face-ahead) more than four times. [T]  [F]

May the best debate-viewing party participant win!

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