But a run to the Super Bowl of politics is just as bruising, CBS News Correspondent Mark Strassman reports.
Americans are choosing sides in both spectacles, and the Democratic quarterbacks have had to scramble.
Like John Kerry in South Carolina – where a true patriot is a Panthers fan.
"I'm a Patriots fan, what can I say," Kerry announced.
Back in New Hampshire, John Edwards was a Carolina boy in Patriots country.
"Here's the truth, and I know I'm going to lose votes because of this, but I am for the Panthers," he told a New Hampshire crowd.
In South Carolina, Tuesday's vote is between Edwards and Kerry, and some polls show it's dead-even, Strassman reports.
But overall, in the race for the big prize, Edwards – like his Panthers – is the underdog, and Kerry – like his Patriots – is now the favorite.
Which of these competitions is tougher?
Strassman asked Jack Kemp, who played both. Kemp was a quarterback for the Buffalo Bills and a Presidential candidate.
"Politics, man. Anything can come. They can come out of the stands at you. Nobody is numbered," Kemp said.
These candidates know that football fans are taking their number on every issue.
"It will be interesting to follow and see if football and politics do go hand in hand," said Lizzie Rice, a Panthers fan.
In both, only the strongest survive. Everyone else goes home.