The debate Wednesday could be compared to many things—a slow dance in which the partners are holding potato peelers to each other's throats, perhaps, or a restaurant in which you, the diner, get to watch a prep cook slow-spit on your burger before it's served—but of course everyone immediately turned to sports metaphors. After I calmed down enough to stop slinging 12-letter epithets at the TV, I told my assembled watch party that Barack Obama was like a football team ahead late and timidly calling two-yard runs up the middle while his opponent was still slinging passes downfield. A buddy said that strategy makes sense for Obama, because he is ahead, while Mitt Romney gets to keep chucking up three-pointers. Someone then complained that Americans use too many baseball metaphors.

Clearly nobody was communicating much of anything. But how else to explain how we got to the fourth quarter of this horse race with the bases loaded and a president trying to score a knockout with free throws? Everyone thought of sports Wednesday because everyone can remember a match in which one side, ahead late, tried to coast to the end while the other kept attacking. Only problem was, no one could agree, exactly, on which sport we were watching.

Boxing (Charles Pierce, for Esquire):

The thing is, if you're going to play rope-a-dope, sooner or later, you have to come off the ropes and throw a punch. You bounce off the ropes and land the left and then the right over the top, and then the other guy goes out of the ring in a blanket. Otherwise, it's just a way to get yourself punched in the stomach a lot.

Poker (Jeff Greenfield, for Yahoo):

When you argue as a Democrat that you and your Republican opponent share wide areas of agreement on Social Security-especially when recipients make up a chunk of Romney's "47 percent" of indolent spongers-you have thrown in a fistful of high cards.

Football, prevent defense (abundant):

Football, Jim Lehrer as replacement ref (overabundant):

Football—no, basketball (Matt Yglesias, for Slate):

Barack Obama's timid approach to debating — I saw a lot of analogies to a prevent defense in football, but I think it was more like the four corners basketball offense that's so deadly boring it's now against the rules — was the most striking element of tonight's debate, but the most important one is probably that Mitt Romney finally shook the etch-a-sketch tonight and moved to the center.



Hockey or soccer or some such:


Baseball (Brad Hill, for The Huffington Post):

Obama worked the game like a slow pitcher in baseball who walks halfway to the infield and back between pitches, trying to break the batter's rhythm. In this case, it just gave Romney time to reload.



NASCAR/badminton mashup: