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In Pittsburgh, Debate Bingo Not Reserved For Palin

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"Oh Yeah!" Ice Cream and Waffles in Pittsburgh's Shadyside area once again rolled out the carpet for debate watchers last night, but this time the debate really did become fun and games for the folks in the shop. Owner Ethan "Rooster" Clay spent a good part of his afternoon prepping for the event, creating a fun Bingo game for the customers to play. Before the debate began, there were Obama T-shirts available for sale, and folks had gathered to socialize prior to the activities.

For the second presidential debate, Rooster let folks know that it surely wasn't all about selling ice cream and coffee. It was about having a good time with your friends and community. Visitors were encouraged to bring their own wine or other alcoholic beverages to heighten the party mood. A good move on Rooster's part, since a fair portion of his customer base is college students from nearby Pitt and Carnegie Mellon. The recent debates have inspired house parties where the students respond to a given phrase, like "American," "Hero," or "Middle Class" by taking a swig of their beer. The B.Y.O.B. format allowed students to enjoy the social environment of the ice cream shop without giving up one of their other favorite activities.

Bingo cards were distributed around the shop, where customers were encouraged to match up candidates' phrases with those on the cards, including "Main Street and Wall Street," "Clean Coal," and "Community Organizer." One attendee said the idea was a great way to make the second debate even more fun to watch. "We know we're going to hear a lot of these things," she said, "but it's funny how now we will really tune into them."

The crowd seemed a bit more subdued for the second presidential debate, but those present were no less interested in the candidates' positions. Having a bit more fun with it this time, one partier reacted to McCain's reference to Teddy Roosevelt by calling out, "Yeah, he was his hero, because McCain was a teenager when Teddy was in office!" The exclamation was greeted with uproarious laughter from everyone within earshot.

Clay's Bingo cards included not only some key anticipated phrases, but also the directive to "Give a cheer or repeat the phrase when you hear it, mark it on your card, and take a sip of your latte or B.Y.O.B." There wasn't a whole lot of cheering - the place stayed rather quiet so that folks could hear the discussion, but there were many giggles each time moderator Tom Brokaw scolded the gentlemen for exceeding their agreed-upon time limit.

Not only college students attended, of course. "Oh Yeah!" is a community gathering spot for many members of the community. One table was occupied by high school students doing homework while watching, and a handful of professors were on hand. Dr. Claudia Carlos, a professor of Rhetoric at Carnegie Mellon University, was in attendance. When asked about whether the debate takes a role in her classes, she noted that her class today will discuss the candidates' messages, and how they deliver them, from an analytical standpoint, so that students can weigh in on whether the men effectively made their arguments. They will only weigh in, of course, if they didn't lift their glasses too many times upon hearing the words "Change," "Hero," and "Proud," which were on their Bingo cards.