All-American shootout: We have something to look forward to this February

t’s so exciting; I don’t know how we’ll stand the wait until early February, when The Event will take place. For the first time ever (but surely not the last) the three major contests of the young quadrennial year will be combined into the All-American Shootout. We will simultaneously produce a Superbowl champion, Oscar winners, and, at the Super Tuesday primaries, the presumptive presidential nominees.

All three affairs have become such popularity contests, and have been competing so fiercely with one another to sell airtime and the most expensive commercials ever made, that it certainly makes sense to combine them. They have so much overlap as it is — ballplayers becoming movie stars, presidential candidates being treated like rock stars, and movie stars interjecting themselves into politics.

Like every good movie, every viable political candidate must have a Story. And in that story they must triumph over others. All three depend on telegenicity and good Q ratings — a Superbowl team from a city that is not a major TV market is considered a terrible thing.

The three also share what is irrelevant — reality, in the sense of a realistic foreign policy, honest and effective ways to right the wrongs of the economy (such as the subprime mortgage vortex that is swallowing many middle- and lower-class families), and global warming. And all three have Causes to which they lend their celebrity; as with politicians, football players and movie stars these days have opinions to offer on subjects about which they are painfully ignorant.

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The Superbowl, the Oscars and Super Tuesday have been willing to accept some accommodations to their usual uniqueness to make The Event work, and we should laud them for that.

It was very gracious of the National Football League to assent to shifting the Big Game from a Sunday to a Tuesday, so as to synergize with the presidential primaries in a dozen major states being held that day. No sense competing with one another when you can combine and raise the number of people in the potential audience by a factor of 10! We’ll be glued to our TV sets from early morning to late at night, awaiting the winners. What a great thing for advertisers.

It was also very good of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give up their usual Monday evening slot to join with the other two extravaganzas. (Of course, we know that what with the strike by my own union, the Writers Guild of America, and without written patter, the Oscars weren’t going to be what they used to be anyway, but still, it was a bold move.)

Then, too, the fact that voting for all of these entities has become largely electronic and digitized helped the decision. As with "American Idol," the public needs to have a hand in choosing winners and losers at the Oscars and Superbowl, as well as in the Presidential Sweepstakes.

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Therefore, I am proposing some further alterations. It will be very salutary for our audience psyches, I believe, to anoint definitive losers as well as winners in The Event. We do this regularly in the primaries, but I think Oscar losers ought to make concession speeches to the people who have beaten them out for the awards. Perhaps Tom Cruise, when he loses the Oscar for best actor, can bring out his wife and little Suri, wave at the crowd, thank his supporters, and make a gracious little speech about the emotive power of Daniel Day-Lewis or George Clooney.

I also propose that some of the political candidates suit up and go in for a play or two during the Superbowl; I have spoken to the New York Giants about this, but as yet they have refused to commit to permitting Senator Hillary Clinton to play for them, even though she is very good at tackling other players at the knees. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani is, of course, known to excel at pass-rushing and trash talk, and has already expressed his willingness to root for any team that has good airtime.

I look forward to a half-time show in which candidates for political office and the nominees for Hollywood stardom will perform, competing for our attention and our applause, and where the outcome of the primaries will depend on how well they do in that sort of high-pressure situation. It will be good, too, for us to be permitted to add or subtract points from the Superbowl contender teams, based on their likeability, style, ingenuity and other performance indicators.

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Here are my confident predictions for the ultimate awards:

Best Movie Story: Senator Barack Obama

Superbowl Champion: Julia Roberts, in overtime.

Super Tuesday Winning Republican Nominee: "There Will Be Blood."

Super Tuesday Winning Democratic Nominee: New England Patriots.


Salisbury, Conn., resident Tom Shachtman has written more than two dozen books and many television documentaries.

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