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I don't watch broadcast TV a lot, but over the past couple of days I've experienced more than four hours of live television — which turned out to be a surprisingly positive experience. Sunday afternoon I watched the Philadelphia Eagles play the Pittsburgh Steelers, and Monday evening I watched the first presidential debate.

My expectations for both events were low. I agreed with most Philadelphians in hoping that the Eagles and their rookie quarterback Carson Wentz could avoid embarrassing themselves, and maybe keep it close before losing. And I reckoned that the debate would be a sort of political duel of pro wrestling promos, maybe mixed with some reality-television tropes, where dominance theater would dominate.

Amazingly, the Eagles thrashed the Steelers on both offense and defense, 34 to 3. And Donald Trump's WWE-style bluster seems to have fallen flat even with most conservative Republicans. Thus John Podhoretz, "Trump’s debate incompetence a slap in the face to his supporters", NY Post 9/27/2016:

By the end of the 95 minutes, Trump was reduced to a sputtering mess blathering about Rosie O’Donnell and about how he hasn’t yet said the mean things about Hillary that he is thinking.

Or David French, "Donald Trump Just Kept Getting Worse", National Review Online 9/26/2016:

Hillary apparently did her homework, and if there’s one thing we learned during the primary, it’s that Trump hates it when debaters attack his wealth or his business. So she went there. She smacked his wealth and business success, and he just couldn’t help himself. For several agonizing minutes, he threw a wall of words at viewers while she just watched — with a satisfied, frozen smile. By the end of the debate he was all over the place — on the defensive on multiple fronts. Why didn’t he have a better answer ready for the birther nonsense? Has he still not done any homework on foreign policy? I felt like I was watching the political Titanic hit the iceberg, back up, and hit it again. Just for fun.

IBEW Local 98 put up a billboard on the way into Philadelphia proclaiming the currently trending portmanteau of Carson Wentz's last name and the state his new team plays in:

I haven't seen a similarly succinct PR summary of last night's debate. But there are some likely sources, e.g.

CLINTON: [M]aybe he doesn't want the American people, all of you watching tonight, to know that he's paid nothing in federal taxes, because the only years that anybody's ever seen were a couple of years when he had to turn them over to state authorities when he was trying to get a casino license, and they showed he didn't pay any federal income tax.
TRUMP: That makes me smart.


Clinton: Donald was one of the people who rooted for the housing crisis. He said, back in 2006, "Gee, I hope it does collapse, because then I can go in and buy some and make some money." Well, it did collapse.
TRUMP: That's called business, by the way.



  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 12:10 pm

    Germanic names ending in -z have a very middle-of-Pennsylvania feel: towns like Lititz, Utz potato chips, etc. But by contrast "Carson" doesn't sound like an old-timey Pennsylvania Dutch first name.

  2. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 12:29 pm

    Separately, both French and Podhoretz (fils) have been notably unsupportive of Trump's candidacy, so those seem like suboptimal choices of evidence for the point being made. It would be better to find quotes from right-of-center pundits who had crossed the line to affirmative support (however grudging) of Trump whose reaction to the debate was "dammit, I finally set aside my qualms and endorsed the guy as the only viable way of stopping Clinton and now he doesn't seem to be up to the job." Candidates for such a reaction might be findable in this lengthy catalog: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/09/where-republicans-stand-on-donald-trump-a-cheat-sheet/481449/

  3. Ralph Hickok said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

    @J.W. Brewer:
    To me, a native Wisconsinite, those -z names have a Wisconsin feel. Perhaps it's because Schlitz and Blatz were both major beer brands when I was growing up.

  4. Steve Hartman Keiser said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 3:12 pm

    Central PA, Wisconsin, North Dakota: bastions of 18th and 19th c. German immigration.

  5. Ben Zimmer said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 3:42 pm

    Campaigning in Philly today, Joe Biden managed to cover both Wentz and the debate. Video here.

  6. J.W. Brewer said,

    September 27, 2016 @ 4:17 pm

    Ralph Hickok: It may be a generational thing, because when I think of Germanic-name/beer/Wisconsin I think of the z-less Leinenkugel's, which was my good-quality-for-the-price-point go-to beverage 25 years ago when I was young and poor and living in Chicago. In Pennsylvania terms, I'd say that Leinenkugel's is the Yuengling of Wisconsin. (That's apparently an Americanized spelling – the internet tells me the founder's surname was Jüngling before he crossed the Atlantic to Pennsylvania.)

  7. Rodger C said,

    September 28, 2016 @ 11:38 am

    Not to be confused with this idea, which would have been much more sensible than what history eventually produced:


  8. J.W. Brewer said,

    October 1, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

    An important further development re "Wentz" as a productive morpheme: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/breaking/20161001_Eagles_on_tap_at_South_Jersey_brewery_-_the_Wentzstefaner.html.

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