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Greg Schwem: Time to fill out your presidential bracket

ElectionsBasketballCollege SportsMitt RomneyCollege Basketball

My favorites choked, my dark horses stumbled and I watched helplessly as my NCAA bracket literally folded itself into a paper airplane and flew into my office garbage can before the Sweet 16 was even solidified.

Still, like millions of Americans, I remain excited as March Madness reaches its crescendo. I enjoy beginning conversations with "Who do you have left?" I revel in sitting in my favorite chair watching nail biters among teams from schools I could never find on a map (quick, somebody type "Xavier" into my GPS). The NCAA tournament is a yearly passion I share with, by some estimates, 30 million Americans who faithfully fill out brackets.

Yes, we Americans do love our sports, as evidenced by this year's staggering Super Bowl ratings and college basketball's increasing popularity. We also love our reality shows. More than a decade after launching, "American Idol" and "Survivor" consistently garner top 10 ratings and "Dancing With the Stars," "Fear Factor" and "The Voice" show little signs of losing steam.

What we don't love is voting for future leaders. Just look at the paltry 20 percent turnout for the Illinois primary election. Other states reported similar dismal figures.

Somebody needs to figure out how to put a little excitement back into our electoral process. Seriously, why can't we just skip the glut of campaign ads? Do away with the town hall meetings and the pancake breakfasts. Instead, let's choose a president using activities that intrigue us: sports and reality television. Sure, some rules would have to be tweaked, but it could work. Picture this:

Exactly one year before the November general election, a seeding committee that comprises two ex-presidents, one unemployed autoworker, a soccer mom, Sharon Osbourne and the winner of a new show called "So, You Want To Pick The President," convenes and establishes the Presidential Bracket. Preferential seeds are given to anyone crazy enough to be making a second run for office. So put Mitt Romney at the top and seed Ron Paul second. Rick Perry gets the third seed because he looks dangerous. Newt Gingrich goes fourth; anything lower and he would complain that his paltry seed was the result of a vast media conspiracy.

Now fill in the remaining slots with Bachmann, Santorum, Cain, Pawlenty, and Huntsman. In the first round, candidates don't battle the entire field but their sole bracket opponent via a series of nationally televised challenges that combine the best of politics, athletic contests and crazy reality stunts. Let the water cooler conversation begin!

"Romney versus Perry. Who do you like?"

"I was going to go with Romney after the foreign policy debate, but Perry kicked his butt in cockroach eating. Now I'm having second thoughts."

"Me, too. Better wait until tonight when they dance the rumba with celebrity partners."

"By the way, did you see Ron Paul singing Stevie Wonder on Fox last night? I was impressed."

Once all contests have been completed, everybody makes their first round picks via their home PCs, thereby eliminating that annoying problem of trudging to their local grade school or church to cast votes. CNN's Wolf Blitzer and Jon King breathlessly tally the results.

"Jon, we are seeing some real surprises tonight. Who would have thought Bachmann, a political unknown just six months ago, would be crushing Pawlenty?"

"I agree, Wolf. I'm guessing it was either her views on gay marriage or her victory in the weight-loss challenge that turned the tide."

With the field whittled in half, America takes a breather and surveys the remaining options. Huntsman is out, so do you support Santorum? He aced the "Minute to Win It" challenges but looked shaky when playing "Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grade Liberal?" Romney shined on "Real Businessmen of Massachusetts" but his health-care plan and his free-throw technique are suspect. Then there's this election's Cinderella story, Herman Cain. Still in the hunt and surging in popularity after touting his economic policies while winning a cross country race with his partner, Snooki from "Jersey Shore." Everybody pick again!

Eventually only one candidate will be left standing. Maybe it's Romney. But he won't learn of his victory by watching election returns. Instead, he'll be standing alone on a mountain top when Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus approaches him and utters a single line:

"Mitt, will you accept this rose?"

(Greg Schwem is a stand-up comedian and author of "Text Me If You're Breathing: Observations, Frustrations and Life Lessons From a Low-Tech Dad," available at http://amzn.to/schwem.)

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