BOSTON (CBS) – I’m sure he didn’t mean any harm, but Charlie Baker let my little debate-moderator secret out of the bag Tuesday night when he disclosed the details of the instructions I gave the candidates just before going on the air.

Watch: The WBZ-TV Gubernatorial Debate

I explain the rules of engagement to them, then offer them two choices: they can obey those rules, and enjoy a great debate experience, or they can disobey them, and “enter my cocoon of horror.”

Gallery: Photos From The Debate

I first heard that line almost 20 years ago when local boxer Peter McNeeley vowed to wrap Mike Tyson in his cocoon of horror shortly before Tyson made short work of him in the ring. And it stuck with me ever since because it speaks to a basic premise of orderly human behavior – there have to be limits, and consequences for violating them.

Mike Tyson connects for the final knockout punch to the head of Peter McNeeley, August 19, 1995.  Tyson won by knockout 92 seconds into the first round. (Photo credit JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Mike Tyson connects for the final knockout punch to the head of Peter McNeeley, August 19, 1995. Tyson won by knockout 92 seconds into the first round. (Photo credit JOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Any of you who’ve raised kids or dogs knows the truth in this. You have got to lay down boundaries and enforce them for peaceful co-existence to ensue.

And this certainly applies to adult humans as well.

Witness the phenomenon of speeding drivers who suddenly develop respect for the speed limit when a State Police cruiser shows up. If the clerk at the supermarket in the 12-items-or-less aisle won’t enfore the limit, other shoppers have to, or else.

Candidates have a lot riding on TV debates. If they don’t respect the boundaries and fear the repercussions of crossing them, they will run wild.

So I warn them about the cocoon of horror, and in 20 years no one has seen fit to enter it.

Which leads me to November 4, you know, voting day?

That’s when you have the chance to usher pols who’ve displeased you into your cocoon of horror.

But if you don’t vote, or blindly re-elect incumbents, then there is no cocoon.

And that is a cocoon of horror in itself.

Listen to Jon’s commentary:

You can listen to Keller At Large on WBZ News Radio every weekday at 7:55 a.m. You can also watch Jon on WBZ-TV News.

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Jon Keller

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