Covering the Miami Heat was supposed to be fun, much like a six-hour trip to the city itself. At least those were my hopes. They were going to win a bunch of games, parading around the country glad-handing fans and opponents, and I was going to sit, perched atop the grassy knoll taking potshots at them.
I was going to mock them the way I mock the Yankees and Patriots — publically scornful, but secretly jealous — and, at the same time, I was going to make fun of the city of Miami, and their fans were going to get angry with me. Because, like fans of any team with an overabundance of wealth, they would be defensive and get all pissy, wondering why some guy took time out of his “busy schedule” to hate.
But, like those plans of both mice and men, I got screwed, big-time. Teams like the Boston Celtics, who have played together for multiple seasons, have beaten both the Heat and, by extension, myself, to the punch, taking the South Floridians behind the woodshed. After his second consecutive Heat beating, Celtics star Paul Pierce, never a master of subtlety, made sure his disdain for the circus was driven home with… his tweeting?
Yeah, with his tweeting. What?
And, lo and behold, I’ve begun to feel badly for them. Sure, I expected some stumbles, but really — as I told the gents here — they were going to bully the other teams… and everyone hates bullies. And wouldn’t it be hysterically funny to point out their blemishes as they steamrolled their way through the season? Oh how heady the laughs would be, I promised. Unfortunately, the Heat, who’ve been bullied themselves during games about half the time, never got that memo. And they’ve been humbled. Already.
How bad has it gotten? Why, even professional unprofessionals like “Mom Jeans” Mark Cuban are getting into the act, mocking them (while his own team prepares for its annual late-season flameout).
And with the team hovering — actually squatting is more like it — at 5–4, the fans are already fed up and impatient. And confused. After all, the Heat looked unstoppable when they were dancing around on stage during their unveiling, easily able to point to themselves and navigate around the stage, unchallenged by defenders.
So when the fans discussed the winning percentage possibilities, over bottle service at some South Beach club, they certainly didn’t think that three weeks in, their recently beloved Heat would be playing .500 ball. They were thinking, 9–1, at worst. Which is how I know that the air, just off of I-95, is thick with a potent mixture of disappointment, Drakkar Noir and Patrón.
When I read that story, I was a little shocked, frankly. Like, already? What part of “three minutes playing together during training camp” did they not understand? Teams need time to coalesce, and for the Heat that process would take awhile.
At least the team leaders have kept a brave face up, urging everyone to keep calm and carry on. That is, except for LeBron James, who has quickly morphed into Hamlet, first questioning the nature of his existence — before distancing himself from his very own comments of a day prior — and then completing the holy trinity of duncecap moves by comparing himself to the last guy anyone would should liken himself to — Randy Moss, the NFL’s version of a cruise ship that no longer reaches port. I know that if I were trying to get people to empathize with my “plight” I wouldn’t rush to compare myself to a man who drove himself out of a benign football town like Minneapolis& twice.
Chris Bosh is no help, as we discussed last week, playing softly and tentatively. So of course he doubles-down by moaning to a Canadian newspaper about he doesn’t like wearing a “black hat”, despite the fact that being the third most hated guy on a team means that you are actually invisible to 94% of the country. It’s gotten so bad for him, in his mind, that former reviled, passive, transplanted Canadian Vince Carter offered him not a scintilla of advice or sympathy.
For his part, Dwyane Wade — the maestro of the deal — has been, as marble-eyed announcer Stuart Scott would say, as cool as the other side of the pillow. Since he was there last year, Wade realizes that eventually the fans will lose interest and not care if the team wins or loses — just as long as they can find their drivers after the game. (Actual proof, here, but, more troublingly, here.) The team’s second best player, Wade has been busy urging calm out there, even while stating the obvious: “Winning cures all.” In this he has the agreement of boyish Heat coach Eric Spoelstra, the guy who is going to be fired by the All-Star Break when it “suddenly occurs to” team president Pat Riley that his hand is needed to run things.
The question is, is anyone listening to reason over the sound of James backpedaling, Bosh whimpering and the tap-tap-tap of the fans iPhoning in their support?
Me, that’s who’s listening. For how much longer, however, is anyone’s guess.
Tony Gervino is a New York City-based editor and writer obsessed with honing his bio to make him sound quirky. He can also be found here.
Image by Keith Allison from Flickr.