Being forced to choose between the Eagles and the final presidential debate is one bad thing that’s actually happening in Philadelphia.
The disappointing Birds will face off against the New York Giants on Thursday Night Football at 8:20 p.m. Eastern, kicking off less than an hour before President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden share the stage for the last time during the 2020 election cycle.
By all accounts, Philadelphians are intensely engaged in this year’s election. More than 1.1 million city residents are registered to vote, the highest number of registered voters since 1984, according to Commissioner Al Schmidt. And Philadelphia was the top television market for the first presidential debate last month, pulling in a 50.3 rating (about 1.46 million households), according to Nielsen, which estimated about 73% of TVs turned on in Philly that night were locked on the debate (most in the city watched on 6ABC, followed by Fox News).
“I think it’s likely that both nationally and in Philadelphia this debate will be down significantly compared to the first debate, which clearly left a bad taste with many viewers,” said Michael Mulvihill, the head of strategy and analytics for Fox Sports. “That said, it’s still a huge event and I think the debate and the Eagles game will each have a modest impact on the other. ... There’s room for both.”
The first debate drew about 73 million viewers, making it the most-watched television event since the Super Bowl. New York City is the nation’s largest media market, so the Eagles-Giants game could made a noticeable dent in the debate ratings this time around (the Thursday Night Football game between the Chicago Bears and Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Oct. 8 brought in 14.71 million viewers).
Because the debate is only scheduled to last an hour an half, enterprising fans could tune in to Fox29 to watch kickoff, switch to basically any other broadcast channel at 9 p.m. to catch the debate, and still have time to watch the end of the game (assuming the Eagles haven’t already blown it by then).
The decision on which to watch is a lot more difficult for media folks who pay the bills covering the news. NBC News White House correspondent Kristen Welker, a Philadelphia native and diehard Eagles fan, won’t be able to tune into the game because she’ll be moderating tonight’s debate.
Fox News anchor and reporter Jillian Mele, a Glenside native and one-time Comcast SportsNet host, wakes up ridiculously early in order to cohost Fox & Friends First at 4 a.m. That means she’s usually in bed by 6 p.m., but Thursday she plans on napping in the afternoon in order to catch Trump and Biden.
“As a lifelong Eagles fan, not much typically stands between me and a Birds game. However, this is the most important election in my lifetime so far and I will be focused on the final presidential debate,” Mele said. “Who knows, maybe I will bring the Eagles some luck by missing this game? Fingers crossed.”
The same goes for Ed Rendell, the former Philadelphia mayor and Pennsylvania governor. He may bleed green and white, but the Biden surrogate will be watching how the former vice president performs against Trump Thursday night.
“I will be watching the debate while DVRing the Eagles," Rendell said.
Fox News opinion host Jesse Watters, an outspoken Trump supporter who grew up in Germantown and East Falls, is also a lifelong Eagles fan. Fortunately for Watters, he cohosts The Five in the afternoon, freeing him up to tune into the Birds game.
“If you wait the next day to watch the Eagles game, your friends, neighbors or spouse will ruin it that morning before you watch it by telling you who won,” Watters said. “Watch the Eagles game live, the debate can wait.”
Jake Tapper doesn’t have a choice. The New York native who grew up in Queen Village will be coanchoring CNN’s live coverage of the debate, meaning he’ll already be on the air when the game starts. But that doesn’t mean he won’t be checking the score during commercial breaks.
Tapper said it was his “honor and responsibility” to cover the debate, “but I would be lying if I said I wouldn’t rather be watching the Eagles win.”