We are a nation divided. We are polarized politically, and income disparity has further stratified our society.

The rise of social media has made connecting with friends more convenient and attacking perceived enemies much easier. As media companies beg for website clicks, "comment" sections have become forums for racist, sexist and homophobic rants, as well as really bad spelling.

Where once Americans gathered around the television or radio to share popular shows, now the media feed niche interests. We walk around as if ensconced in bubbles, our earbuds isolating us from sound and humanity.

We are a nation divided, and there is only one group of people who can unite us as Americans.

Thank you, Miami Heat.

You are our last hope for national unanimity.

Rooting against the Heat has replaced rooting against the Yankees as the unifying principle of the sports world. The Heat has provided a blueprint for what not to do and say.

The Heat is to choking what Tiger Woods is to self-destruction. The Heat is the NBA version of the Kardashian family -- a group of people who are famous not because of accomplishment but because of the shallow nature of modern American fame.

In a country that always has celebrated athletes who elevate their original team to championships, the Heat was borne of a shortcut that would not stand in your average YMCA. Three star players conspired to play together in a resort town to ease their path to a title.

Those three players held a wild celebration before they ever played a game in Heat uniforms. LeBron James bragged about the number of championships they would win.

Last season, the first in which Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and James played together, they were defeated in the NBA Finals by a cohesive, defensive-minded team featuring a star certain of his role in Dirk Nowitzki.

In the offseason, Miami added a seemingly perfect complement to their stars in Shane Battier, a defensive stopper who would not interfere with the stars' offensive requirements. The Heat was expected to be better prepared to win close games and more determined to prove that its alliance was worthy of admiration.

On Sunday, in the second round of the playoffs in a weak conference, the Heat will face a game that threatens to destroy its chances to win the first of what James expected to be many titles.

Thursday night, the Heat lost to a far less talented team, the Indiana Pacers, to fall behind in the series two games to one. In a Game 2 loss, James again looked lost with the game on the line, and Wade, one of the men who celebrated before ever playing a game with Bosh and James, complained about the Pacers celebrating wildly after winning a playoff game on the road.

In Game 3, with Bosh missing because of an abdominal injury, Wade disappeared, scoring just five points, and argued with his coach. The Heat looked misguided and dysfunctional, while the Pacers gave hope to anyone who feared you can win in the NBA only by attracting and catering to superstars.

The Pacers are a product of intelligent design and gritty play. Larry Bird, their general manager, employs just one player who was chosen in the top 10 of the NBA draft -- Paul George, who was the 10th pick in 2010. Bird this season was named NBA executive of the year.

Frank Vogel, their almost-anonymous coach, guides a tenacious and versatile group of players, a group so starless that the Pacers draw poorly even in a state known for its love of basketball.

The Pacers beating the Heat is a real-world version of the classic Hollywood sports movie, in which the geeks whip the cool kids, or the small school beats the big school.

Today, the Pacers can strike a blow for all Americans.

Today, the Pacers can give us all something to agree upon.

Jim Souhan can be heard Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and weekdays at 2 p.m. on 1500-AM. His Twitter name is SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com