Primary tourney

Sports fans can make a case for February being the worst month of the year. Professional basketball and hockey are in the doldrums of the midseason. College football is long gone and the only thing remaining from the professional football season is the post-Super Bowl hangover and the following cold shower that is the Pro Bowl. The only thing this season has going for it is college basketball, right?

Wrong. Every four years, the worst month in sports becomes the best. Not because of the outrageously obsessive coverage of Olympic figure skating judges. No, February is the best because it's the beginning of primary season. And in primary season, everyone might as well be a sports fan.

It is time for the presidential election, where candidates will battle for a few months before the final showdown in November, when the champion of the Democratic Party faces the winner of the Republican Party. Reigning national champ George W. Bush will get a bye through his party's bracket, so all eyes are on the Democratic Party to see who can stop Bush's bid for a second title in five years.

The Democrats' fans have built a strong dislike for Bush because they believe his recent battle with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was not a league-sanctioned match. Some, such as liberal mascot Michael Moore, went so far as to say it was grounds for contracting him.

Six candidates remain for the Democrats. The lowest-seeded competitor left is Dennis Kucinich. He has a solid background: a four-term congressman and former mayor of Cleveland. But that easy schedule is coming to haunt him now as he's been blown out in every round so far.

Just above Kucinich is the Rev. Al Sharpton, a man who has gotten a lot of attention while in the game but has never actually won anything, much like Anna Kournikova.

Remember Howard Dean? The man was the preseason consensus No. 1, but he might be the latest victim of the Newsweek curse, as he was on the cover of the magazine a few months ago. He's fallen in the polls lately, and his streakiness, which was especially apparent in his remarks to reporters after the round in Iowa, might just cost him a title.

Next is Wesley Clark. He's a hard-working candidate who seemed to have all the weapons necessary to top Bush, but so far, he's been the biggest disappointment of the season.

Ahead of Clark is John Edwards, who has shown that young candidates can make some noise in the race. The North Carolina senator started as an unknown, but strong showings in the early rounds have made him this year's Cinderella, with plenty of boosts from the media.

At the top is John Kerry, a senator from Massachusetts. He started the season with a mediocre showing in the polls, but his experience has pushed him to the top. Some may have doubted his energy with his age and haggard face, but if the Detroit Red Wings and 41-year-old Igor Larionov won the Stanley Cup in 2002, why can't Kerry win for the Democratic Party?

Kerry may be in the lead, but the season has had its memorable moments, such as last Tuesday's battle in Oklahoma. The score was tight from the very beginning, with Clark and Edwards exchanging leads. The media coverage was lacking though. Midway through, CNN cut away to show a post game press conference by Joe Lieberman, who, although the match wasn't over yet, had to concede because of the slaughter rule. Fortunately, the ticker at the bottom of the screen provided updates on the showdown in the heartland, which Clark won in overtime.

Fans are just hoping officials will let the candidates play out for themselves, especially the way things happened in 2000. The Democratic champion Al Gore used instant replay to review the action in Florida, but unfortunately for him, most of the officials that year were fans of the Republican Party. In a ruling as infamous as the pass interference call against Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl, they let the decision in Florida stand. With all the controversy surrounding the officiating that year, fans of the Democratic Party have been wondering: Is it too late for a make-up call?

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