I thought it was lame when some righties defended the “send her back” hooting at Trump’s rally on Wednesday night by comparing it to sports. It’s true that the rallies often have the feel of a game or a concert (or pro wrestling, I’d say, since there are designated villains for the crowd to boo at) but “sports” was too innocuous an analogy for that moment.

Then I watched CNN pregaming their own luck-of-the-draw stunt for the next Dem debate last night as if it was Selection Sunday for the NCAA Tournament. Can’t fault anyone too much for thinking modern politics is a competitive spectacle held for the sake of entertainment.

They aired an hourlong program to hype something that could have been announced in 30 seconds, and which is more likely than not to have zero effect on whom the nominee ultimately is. They even held the draw in tiers, replete with “potential match-ups,” choosing the big four last to build suspense as to whether they’d end up in group one or group two. Watch a few minutes:

I like Biden coming out of the South regional, Wolf, and facing Duke in the Final Four. As usual, says Reid Epstein of the Times, the Democrats and CNN are dancing to Trump’s tune here:

From the heavily rehearsed jabs, gimmicks and one-liners at the June debates to the elaborately staged “live drawing” for the July debate lineups that aired Thursday night on CNN, it’s starting to look like Democrats have been drawn into the reality TV genre that President Trump, who first entered most homes as a character on “The Apprentice,” started spreading in American politics.

The Democratic National Committee has all but encouraged candidates to strive for performative breakout moments as a way to attract more donors, which are needed to qualify for the party’s televised debates.

The result is a field of candidates in search of did-you-see-that clips to dominate successive news cycles, something to keep them in the churn of cable and social media content that drives attention, small-dollar contributions and, they hope, a rise in the polls.

“It has become more and more like a game show,” complained one GOP strategist — or a sport, perhaps.

Anyway, here’s how things shook out, with some creative interpretation via Twitter pal Bob Malak:

The Sanders/Warren death match for the soul of progressivism is obviously the highlight of night one, although it’ll be fun watching Beto O’Rourke try to muster the moxie to lay into Pete Buttigieg, most likely over his record on race relations in South Bend. I don’t know if that attack would even work for Beto at this point: The media seems so eager to write the story of O’Rourke’s spectacular presidential failure that the narrative after a Beto/Butti throwdown is as likely to be about O’Rourke losing his image as the sunny Obamaesque figure in the field as it is to be about the merits of the criticism of Mayor Pete.

Just as obviously, the highlight of night two is the Biden/Harris rematch — but there’s a catch. Two, actually. Cory Booker will also be onstage, and Booker has been very thirsty indeed in trying to muscle in on the Biden/Harris spat over desegregation and race. If not for the luck of the draw, he, not Harris, might have launched the busing attack on Biden at the first debate that led to Harris’s “breakout” moment. Cory ended up in the first group for that one, you may remember, not the second. As it is, despite hitting Biden hard in interviews over his comments about working with segregationists in the Senate, it’s Harris rather than him who made an impression on the black Obama voters who are momentarily supporting the former VP. All of which means that the coming Biden/Harris rematch is very likely to be derailed by a desperate Booker attacking Biden at every opportunity to try to make an impression of his own — with Harris, ironically, possibly standing to benefit since she won’t need to get her own hands dirty this time to wound Biden.

In fact, Team Cory is all but guaranteeing it:

That’s his deputy national communications director. If you think Spartacus swinging wildly at Biden in hopes of salvaging his campaign while Harris stands there grinning is entertaining then you’ll love night two of this debate. But that brings us to the other catch: Tulsi Gabbard will also be onstage and Gabbard has been oddly outspoken in defending Biden from Harris’s racial attacks. Why she’s doing that is unclear — maybe it’s genuine pique, maybe she sees herself as a potential VP to Uncle Joe — but Gabbard is good on TV, was good at the first debate, and has little to lose in swinging at Booker and Harris if she thinks they’re being unfair to Biden. Maybe Biden ends up standing there grinning while Tulsi takes the two senators out back for a fight.

Exit question: Will Biden call Booker out for his own willingness to meet with the likes of Louis Farrakhan? Or is that subject too fraught for Barack Obama’s vice president?