Until the NBA playoffs start in April, the best spectator sport around has been the presidential election. This year, I'm watching it the same way I used to watch Jordan and the Bulls play. You already know who's going to win, but there's still plenty of enjoyment to be had seeing the process go forward.
Say what you want about Dean, he inspired people. That's a quality all too rare in politics these days.
At this point, it's fairly probable that President Bush will go home to Texas in disgrace, keeping alive the family tradition of blowing insurmountable leads and alienating most of his supporters.
In the same way that the Utah Jazz would throw everything they had at Jordan, the Republicans are throwing everything they have at John Kerry and John Edwards. The likes of Greg Ostertag couldn't stop Jordan, and Bush won't be able to stop the Democrats, no matter how fierce their attacks.
But the entry of Ralph Nader into the race throws that analogy out the window. It's as if Rasheed Wallace jumped out of the stands, put on a Jazz uniform and entered the game.
I don't think Ralph's going to get a lot of votes this time. Make no mistake: Ralph Nader is an American hero for what he's done in his life. He's stood up to powerful interests his entire life. I agree with nearly everything he says.
I just don't see that translating into a flood of votes this time around. In 2000, the climate was ripe for a protest candidate. Even many liberals couldn't see a substantive difference between Al Gore and George Bush.
But the Florida debacle of 2000 - when the Supreme Court stepped in to take the election away from its rightful winner - galvanized Democrats everywhere and made them vow to never again let such a thing happen.
Of course, Nader is mostly right on the issues, more correct than any other candidate in the race. That's beside the point now. This is not his year. We need to restore democracy and a progressive government first.
Of course, the media are jumping all over Nader's candidacy and forecasting doom for the Democrats. The media have gotten it all wrong from the beginning; there's no reason to expect they'd get the picture now.
Look at the doomed candidacy of Howard Dean, for example. Just a few months ago, the media declared Dean the winner. There was no way he'd lose Iowa or New Hampshire. His supporters would flock to the polls and make the nomination process moot.
Then, after a few losses, the media declared him dead. Meanwhile, his views on the issues were hardly ever examined. It was all about his Iowa scream and his Internet supporters, not his ideas for America.
Blame the media for his departure from the race. I think he should have gone on campaigning anyway. For a man whose most-publicized statement involved reciting a list of states he planned to visit, he sure quit early. I wish he had gone on to California and Florida and New York and the others.
Say what you want about Dean, he inspired people. That's a quality all too rare in politics these days. I wasn't sold on Dean's message but I appreciated the fervor he brought to the race.
Only a few times in my life has a politician inspired me. When I was 11 years old, I sat in Garfield Park and listened to Jimmy Carter talk about the greatness of America and how our leaders had let down the country.
In 1992, I stood in a hotel ballroom in Little Rock, Ark., and listened to Bill Clinton and Al Gore outline their ideas to carry America into the 21st century.
All of those men made me proud to be American.
The closest thing we have to a man of their caliber is Sen. John Edwards, who seems to be the only populist left in the race. If you've ever heard his stump speech on C-Span, you know what I'm talking about. He speaks of two Americas, one rich and one poor, and the widening gulf between them.
The son of a millworker, Edwards seems to have an affinity with the working man. And I think even Bushites can get behind what he has to say about taxes.
"Make no mistake: President Bush has a war on work - you see it in everything he does. He wants to eliminate every penny of tax on wealth, and shift the whole burden to people who work for a living. So people won't pay any taxes at all when they make money from selling stocks, when they get big dividends every year, or when they inherit a massive estate.
"But if you work at a restaurant earning the minimum wage - you'll pay more. If you're a teacher, already earning less than you deserve - you'll pay more. If you're a policeman working overtime - that's right, you'll pay more. I think that's wrong. It's wrong to tax millionaires less for playing the market than we tax soldiers for keeping America safe ...
"Working people have been shut out by this president because he values only one thing: wealth. He wants to make sure that those who have it - keep it. That they belong to an exclusive club - that the barriers are up, the doors closed and no one else ever gets in."
Remember, the election this November will be the most important of our lifetimes. And the only way you can participate is to register to vote. You can do so when you buy your license plates or you can download a form at www.in.gov/sos/elections/vote_reg.html, print it out and mail it in.
There are exactly 250 days until the election. Don't get left out this time.