Is this the grand finale we imagined for the venerable Michael Jordan?

If parting is such sweet sorrow, then somebody better pump the laughing gas way up because this ending has the aroma of a crummy, water-soiled dime store novel.

Michael lost in his final home game as a professional basketball player. I know it’s hard to believe the world has come to this. And to the Knicks, of all the dratted scoundrels!

The Washington Wizards succumbed 93-79 to the New York Knicks on Monday night at the MCI Center. United States Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave His Airness a U.S. flag and even stuck around for the stink/lovefest for the entire first half. Jordan drilled a modest 21 points while grabbing eight rebounds in 37 minutes.

Is this what The Air Man had in mind when returning for a third spin around the block: five straight losses before the season’s last game, petty infighting among teammates, and a second straight year without a trip to the playoffs?

Jordan walking off into the bleary sunset in an insidiously tacky 1978 retro Bullets jersey sits about as well as Superman decked out in a pink tutu on his way to save Lois Lane from a burning building.

Only Jordan can’t squelch the flames of the Wiz’s collapse. The Washington Wizards’ season has not gone down in flames – it’s tumbled into an infernal miasma of futility and brimstone. Now the young’ins and Head Coach Doug Collins are yelling at each other through the nearest media outlets. Instead of improving down the final stretch of the season, the 40-year-old M.J. and his childish teammates puttered around like cavemen first discovering fire.

Sophomore Kwame Brown has not improved, Larry Hughes is marginally marginal, Christian Laettner needs to bring back the headband (at least the ladies might flock to him) and Ty Lue… what can I say about the little rugrat? He belongs in the ball room at McDonald’s. And his mother never should have let him leave the house with that hairdo straight from the Kentucky Derby track.

Though the piling defeats in a 37-44 season certainly sting, Jordan knows that now is the time to hang up the sneakers and mesh shorts for a pair of Bruno Maglis and Dockers. Six rings, six Finals MVPs and your own bust. Not bad.

Maybe the pain will stop tonight in Philadelphia. But the Sixers from the City of Brotherly Love will show no compassion to the greatest basketball player in the world.

They’ll show him the back door.

– Eliav Appelbaum knows Wilt Chamberlain claimed to have had 50,000 women, but all M.J. needs to retain his dignity is one. As in one final victory. All the best, Michael.