Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Major League Baseball may be on the way, but for now politics is still the big game in the District.

Managers of most bars in the area said their big-screen televisions will be tuned tonight to the debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry — not the baseball pennant races.

The two games and the debate start at about the same time.

The candidates are scheduled to lob the first of their rhetorical tropes at 9 p.m. — about 40 minutes after the first pitches are thrown in games in both league championship series — the Boston Red Sox versus the New York Yankees and the Houston Astros versus St. Louis Cardinals.

Even Hawk ‘n’ Dove will show the debate.

The Capitol Hill spot was the city’s unofficial baseball bar when the Senators were whiffing curveballs at D.C. Stadium, but it always has been a favorite among political types who live and work on the Hill.

“As much as a baseball bar as we are, we will still have the sound on from the debate,” said Paul Meagher, the bar manager.

One explanation is that many see the debate as a “Game 7” finale for the candidates who are neck and neck in the race for the presidency, though the Astros are making their first championship appearance and a Yankees-Red Sox series is among the most storied in sports.

“Politics is how so many people earn their livelihood here,” Mr. Meagher said. “What the World Cup is to Europe, these debates are to this bar.”

The debate also will pre-empt baseball at Madam’s Organ Restaurant & Bar on 18th Street NW in Adams Morgan.

“Everyone wants to watch [the candidates], especially now,” said Christy Brzonkala, the restaurant manager. “We do live in D.C., and it is a very political city.”

The club’s patrons are a mix of young and old, locals and out-of-towners, but they all seem preoccupied with the presidential contest these days, Ms. Brzonkala said.

“For the last two [presidential debates] they have not come in until after the debates,” she said. “We are dead until after they are over.”

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