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Presidential race intrigues foreign players
by Gery Woelfel / October 29, 2004

Whenever Zaza Pachulia turns on the television, he'll inevitably see a commercial for the United States presidential race. With the hotly-contested race set for Tuesday, Republican incumbent George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry have flooded the airwaves for support.

Yet, even when Pachulia has his TV off, he seemingly can't escape the political madness surrounding the presidential race. Recently, the Milwaukee Bucks' young center drove from his downtown Milwaukee apartment to the airport to catch a team's plane.

Pachulia had one problem, though. One big problem.

"The police closed the roads,'' Pachulia said. "I only know one way to get to the airport and I couldn't get
through. I had to wait and wait and wait. I almost missed my flight. I got there at the last second.''

The reason why Pachulia and other airport-bound travelers were stopped was because Kerry was campaigning in Milwaukee. It was one of several spots Kerry campaigned on that day as he tried to close the gap with Bush in the national polls.

According to several reputable pollsters, the Bush-Kerry race is too close to call. It is a race that offers stark, contrasting stances by the candidates on virtually every conceivable topic – be it national defense, social security, outsourcing jobs or abortion.

The intensely-battled presidential race, perhaps the most emotionally-charged in U.S. history, has
captured the interest of not only Americans but foreigners like Pachulia, who was born and raised in the country of Georgia.

"I cannot say I don't care because I really do care,'' Pachulia said of the presidential race. "I look at America like my country. I play basketball here now. I live here now except when I go home in the summer.

"Politics isn't my job, but I do listen. It's on every channel. That's what they all talk about here now. It's the No. 1 thing in America now.''

Pachulia politely declined to say whether he favors Bush or Kerry and refused to speak specifically about the perceived pros and cons of each candidate.

Likewise, Dirk Nowitzki, the Dallas Mavericks' All-Star forward from Germany, shied away from talking about
the presidential candidates and the issues that separate them.

However, Nowitzki said he was intrigued by the American political process and how it varies from his own country's.

"You can vote for seven, eight parties in Germany,'' Nowitzki said. "Here you're stuck with the two.

"Over there in Germany, you have more options. Everybody has their own way. Here, it's this or that.''

Nowitzki said he's seen a slew of campaign commercials and has occasionally read about Bush and Kerry. And
even though Nowitzki isn't a U.S. citizen and thus ineligible to vote, he still took time to watch one of the three televised presidential debates. Nowitzki said he felt like many Americans in that he had difficulty deciding which candidate was the better choice.

"I don't really know what to think about them,'' Nowitzki said. "Both have their good points. But it's all talk basically. You don't know what they're going to do once they're elected.''

While Nowitzki preferred having a more diverse list of candidates, Dan Gadzuric said it beats the alternative of not having any presidential options at all. Gadzuric, the Bucks' starting center, was born and raised in Holland. The Netherlands has a constitutional monarchy.

"I like the (political) system in America,'' said Gadzuric, who came to America in 1996 when he attended Governor Dummer Academy in Byfield, Mass. "You have freedom to choose your leaders here. You have the
opportunity to choose the direction you want your country to go in.

"In the Netherlands, you have a king and queen. Things are set. Everybody wants a better way of living, and
it could be better here. But this is very good here.''

What Gadzuric doesn't particularly care for is the harsh, personal attacks the candidates have launched against each other for the last several months, fully aware of how much is at stake.

"They're trying to dog each other out,'' Gadzuric said. "Everybody is trying to look good for themselves. That's what politics are – trying to make yourself look good.

"These guys are trying to win the election, so it's pretty much every man for himself.''

While Gadzuric knows he has no control over how the presidential race is conducted, and has no input on the outcome, he has one fervent desire.

"I just hope the best guy wins,' Gadzuric said. "I just hope the president has good intentions and does what's best.''

That sentiment was echoed by his Bucks' teammate.

"I want everything to be OK,'' Pachulia said. "It doesn't matter if I'm American or Georgian or Russian or whatever. It's all our world. We're all one people.''

Gery Woelfel covers the Milwaukee Bucks and the NBA for The Racine (Wis.) Journal Times

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