After well over a year of insanely early coverage, the 2008 presidential campaign finally has an actual contest today when Iowa holds its caucus. At first, Page 2 planned to honor this moment and the coinciding first week of the NFL playoffs by speculating how the presidential campaign would go if it was covered like the NFL. But given all the early speculation, anointed and subsequently dethroned front-runners, constantly changing predictions, evolving conventional wisdom and excessive hype (Super Tuesday has been renamed "Super Duper Tuesday" -- seriously, we're not making that up), it's apparent the many "news" outlets already cover the presidential campaign as if it were the NFL.
The question, therefore, is how the news outlets would cover the NFL this season.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Wolf Blitzer ultimately wrote off the Colts' campaign when Dwight Freeney became unable to perform his cabinet duties.
July 20: The New York Times devotes 10 days of training camp coverage analyzing which teams have raised the most money in ticket and replica jersey sales so far.
Aug. 11: CBS declares that the Ravens are the new Super Bowl front-runner due to their convincing 29-3 victory over the Eagles in the first exhibition game. Analyst Jeff Greenfield, however, says the week's biggest winner is the Texans, who must now be considered a serious Super Bowl contender by coming out of nowhere for a surprisingly close 20-19 loss to the Bears. "They far surpassed expectations in this week's primary, and don't forget, five Super Bowl champions have come out of Texas," Greenfield says. "The biggest loser, meanwhile, is New England. The Patriots had the biggest war chest and they still lost."
Aug. 17: After the Patriots lose their second exhibition game, MSNBC's Chris Matthews says New England has absolutely no chance of winning the Super Bowl. "Frankly, their boneheaded decision to pick up Randy Moss is killing them." Matthews adds that the Colts, Bengals, Cardinals, Broncos, Raiders, Seahawks, Rams, Jets, Bills, Panthers and Ravens are also out of the Super Bowl chase following their losses.
Aug. 25: Soon after the Chiefs and Cardinals lose their third exhibition games, Matt Drudge reports that both teams announce they are dropping out of the season.
Sept. 2: Robert Novak outs Bill Belichick, writing in his Chicago Sun-Times column that the New England coach secretly videotaped the Jets' defensive signals against league regulations. Novak refuses to name his source.
Sept. 19: According to a CNN/USA Today/Time poll of Wisconsin fans, the undefeated Packers are the new Super Bowl front-runners.
Sept. 28: Citing the incidents involving Michael Vick, Pacman Jones and Tank Johnson, George Will writes that America would be better if it rejected the gangster culture permeating the NFL and returned to the wholesome family values of baseball. "And," he adds, "the nation's welfare would be served best of all if the Cubs win the World Series."
Oct. 2: NPR reports that the NFL destroyed the Belichick tapes as part of a massive cover-up, but no one listens because the segment airs during the network's annoying semiannual pledge drive.
Oct. 14: Tim Russert changes the name of "Meet the Press" to "Sunday Morning Quarterback," which opens with Hank Williams Jr. singing the new theme song, "To All My Wonky Friends," and its opening line: "Are you ready for a probing and well-rounded discussion?"
AP Photo/Jeff Christensen
"Today's talking points include: the NFL in London, Cam Cameron and falafel."
Nov. 5: Following polls that show fans are embracing the 6-2 Lions and quarterback Jon Kitna's "miraculous" return from a concussion, MSNBC's Tucker Carlson declares the Lions the new Super Bowl front-runners and questions whether the Patriots are endangering their Super Bowl hopes by alienating the Christian right with a quarterback who fathered a child out of wedlock. "Although," he acknowledges, "I do admire Belichick's laissez-faire approach to scoring."
Nov. 18: After the Patriots rally to beat Indianapolis on what is described as "Ginormous Sunday," "Sunday, Bloody Sunday" and "An Even Bigger Sunday Than Last Sunday, Which As We Told You Was Pretty Damn Big Itself," the Washington Post reports that the Colts will throw their support to New England, which will virtually lock up the AFC championship. "A Brady-Manning ticket," the paper writes, "would be unbeatable."
Nov. 22: Fox's Sean Hannity says that Detroit and Dallas playing on Thanksgiving Day reflects good old-school traditional American core values, while Alan Colmes argues that it is nothing more than a photo opportunity. "Though," he says, "in Detroit's case, it's a pretty bad photo op."
Dec. 2: Larry King interviews all of Tony Romo's girlfriends.
Dec. 3: CNN's Anderson Cooper speculates that New England's Super Bowl chances are seriously damaged by a 24-21 victory over Baltimore that "failed to cover the point spread and demonstrates waning support."
Dec. 16: The Lions stagger to their fifth consecutive loss and ABC's Mark Halperin attributes the collapse to Detroit not focusing on the economy.
Dec. 31: PBS says that in the spirit of fair play, the Browns should be allowed to participate in the playoffs along with the other six AFC teams by virtue of their identical 10-6 record to Pittsburgh and Tennessee, and invites the team to appear on its Sunday broadcast. Unfortunately for Cleveland, PBS does not televise the NFL playoffs, so the Browns wind up on "The McLaughlin Group," looking very confused.
Feb. 3: Fox rechristens the Super Bowl as the "Super Duper Bowl: Decision MMVIII." Its Seattle affiliate adds the slogan, "They Play, The Refs Decide."
Feb 7: Fox's Bill O'Reilly declares that fans who don't root for the AMERICAN Football Conference in the Pro Bowl are unpatriotic. Ann Coulter goes even further and says such fans should be waterboarded.
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached here. His Web site is jimcaple.net, with more installments of "24 College Avenue."