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Debates or games? Sports fans must juggle mix of politics, football, baseball

By Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 10:19 AM EDT, Wed October 3, 2012
Some viewers Wednesday night will be forced to choose between the presidential debate and crucial baseball games.
Some viewers Wednesday night will be forced to choose between the presidential debate and crucial baseball games.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Wednesday's debate comes on the last day of the MLB season
  • The other debates also fall during crucial football or baseball games
  • Multitasking is the order of the day for fans

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(CNN) -- Kyle Green, a University of Minnesota instructor, feels awful that he asked his sociology class to watch all three presidential debates. He should have checked the calendar first.

Each of the debates this month, as well as the vice presidential showdown, falls on crucial game days.

The fight for the hearts and minds of voters will be, in many households, a fight for the remote.

"I bet there are a lot of sports fans in my class who will be facing the same dilemma that I am," said Green, a rabid sports fan.

When President Barack Obama takes on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in their first debate Wednesday, Major League Baseball will be wrapping up its regular season.

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It's an especially important day for Yankees, Orioles, Rangers and Athletics fans as their teams vie for first place in their respective divisions.

Eight days later, the October 11 vice presidential debate falls on the same day as the Thursday night football game between the Steelers and Titans.

The NFL's "Thursday Night Football" has been delivering strong numbers this year, and last Thursday's Browns-Ravens game ranked first among cable TV programs for the night.

When Romney and Obama face off a second time on October 16, they will compete with a Major League Baseball playoff game. Last year, an average of 7.1 million viewers watched a playoff game.

And the final presidential debate on October 22 falls on a Monday during an NFL game between historical rivals the Detroit Lions and the Chicago Bears.

Judging by past numbers, the debates will likely win out.

Some 56 million people watched the final debate between Obama and Sen. John McCain on October 15, 2008. Average viewership for a typical Monday Night Football game is about 13 million.

But the numbers don't speak to the anxiety some will feel Wednesday.

New York actor Markus Potter, like many Yankees fans, is torn.

The Yanks are trying to fight off the Baltimore Orioles to win the American League East championship. And the game will be in its final innings as the debate begins.

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"Always rough when presidential politics and baseball compete," Potter said.

He says he'll have the TV tuned to the debate and his laptop to the game, switching his attention between the two.

"This just means I have to turn off the Twitter so nothing is given away in either game," he said. "And yes, I do refer to them both as 'games.'"

Denver-area baseball writer Jonah Keri will be contending with a third distraction, albeit a pleasant one.

Wednesday is also the birthday of his 3-year old twins.

"I will be lighting candles, watching the debate and the games at the same time," he said.

"I will have the computer and the TV going at the same time," he said. " I imagine in this era of multitasking, many will be doing this."

Last month, the NFL rescheduled its season-opener to avoid competing with Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention.

It was a tit-for-tat gesture. In September 2011, Obama moved up his much-anticipated jobs speech to Congress by an hour prior to the start of that year's NFL's season-opener.

But there are no such concessions planned this month.

Which leaves sports fans who are into politics to engage in a game of their own: juggling.

Photos: The first televised debates

CNN's Caitlin Stark contributed to this report.

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