Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Super Bowl of Politics

With two major American spectator sports -- pro football and Presidential politics -- colliding on television this January, it is worth a closer observation.

In football, the rhythm of the regular season gives way to Wild Card Weekend, followed by the Divisional Playoffs and (this upcoming weekend), the Conference Championships. All of that excitement, with TV bringing us a new game from a new location each weekend, leads up to the preeminent sporting event in professional sports: the Super Bowl.

With locations picked years in advance (get your plane tickets for Supe XLV, to be held in the Dallas Metroplex), the location becomes -- for the week leading up to the game -- the sports and entertainment capital of the world. The telecast itself is the ultimate marketing spot for consumer advertisers. Anyone out there remember Bud Bowl?

Presidential politics, in contrast, begins (at least on TV) with the "Super Bowl": Iowa, and to a greater extent, the New Hampshire Primary. While Iowa is dispersed and the caucus system is archaic, New Hampshire (especially this year) provided everything a political junkie could want: two competitive races, a navigable city (Manchester), and a primary that ended up with a surprise ending.

Fox and CNN come up weeks in advance to build elaborate sets and backdrops. You can't drive for 5 minutes in Manchester on the weekend before the Primary without running into a candidate or a national political journalist -- or both. The campaigns themselves, having been in the states for well over a year before Election Day, secure the best venues for their election night speeches. The whole week becomes an elaborate set-piece that culminated with John McCain reprising his NH win in the very same hotel room where he claimed victory in 2000.

But now that the political Super Bowl is over, its off to the equivalent of Wild Card Weekend. The locations move each night, and the campaigns are put together with tape and baling wire. Instead of elaborately staged victory parties, even Mitt Romney looked spontaneous last night with his sleeves rolled up and his hair (or at least 3 strands) slightly askew:

The wildness will continue for at least three more weeks, to February 5th. At that point, perhaps the writers' strike will have been resolved.

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