I recently had to buy a car. It’s a stressful, horribly nerve-racking endeavor but one that many of us are forced to do. I’m 22 years old and recently moved to San Francisco and used public transportation for as long as I could hold out. But it was time.
I’m also a first-time car buyer. That means that I have no clue about buying a car. I don’t know anything about cars, either. I mean, pop the hood and I can identify about as many things as I could walking into Victoria’s Secret. “Yeah, that the engine there. And those, those are thongs. But what the hell is that? Can I touch it? Is it hot?”
Any way, I pulled up my britches, notepad in hand, and walked into that Honda dealership with a kind of determination and confidence I can only compare to the first time I took a girl’s bra off.
“I need a thing with wheels so I can go to places. Do you have those here?”
This experience got me thinking about Miami Heat fans during Game 6 of the NBA Finals. The one when Ray Allen hit the greatest three-pointer in NBA Finals history and many Heat fans were not there to see it because they left early.
This turned into a national media shit storm, with everyone and their dentists ripping on Heat fans. The rest of the country, disappointed that the Heat somehow forced a Game 7, could take solace in the fact that Heat fans weren’t true fans because they left early.
The experience somehow justified the prejudices so many people already had about Heat fans. NBA fans around the country hated Heat fans before this, and somehow this experience justified that. What? You just knew it was only a matter of time before the Heat were down 3 points with seconds left and Heat fans would go for the exits? That sounds about as dumb as me explaining that the transmission controls the thrust of the axle shaft.
“These losers are leaving, they are flocking to the exits with their team down by three. This city does not only not deserve this team, they don’t deserve any team.” said Indiana Pacers radio asshole Mark Boyle, who was at the game.
They hated Heat fans because they were jealous. That’s it. Lets not pretend that it was anything else — Nothing less. Nothing more — It was a stupid, yet understandable reason.
But let’s talk about so many fans leaving that game early. First of all, let’s not all act like the Heat were in fine position to win that game. They weren’t supposed to win. They were bringing out the ropes, the guys on NBA Countdown were awestruck. Meaning that people perfectly objective were in disbelief that Allen hit that three with -2 seconds left.
The San Antonio Spurs should have won that game and the Spurs should have been NBA Champions but the Heat were supposed to win that game and were supposed to be NBA Champions.
The NBA, more than any other league, crowns the best team. You can get hot in the NFL. The New York Giants can make the playoffs at 9-7 and win the Super Bowl. That would be like the Milwaukee Bucks getting hot and Brandon Jennings averaging 28 PPG on 65 percent shooting and 10 assists in the playoffs. That doesn’t happen. The best team, somehow, always wins [most of the time]. We love the NBA for that reason because we can look back every summer and say “yeah, they deserved it.”
And yet, it looked like the Heat were going to lose and fans left. So we don’t deserve this team? Really? Just like first-time car buyers, Heat fans are first-time Heat buyers. Are they bandwagon fans? Many of them are, in the modern sense of the word. But many of the Neo-Heat fans reside in South Florida.
So when Pat Riley put together the team, they bought jerseys and tickets and took a ride. Isn’t that how the business of sports work? You win and you get more fans? Should they have bought tickets when the team flunked in advance of the summer of 2010?
Would the Celtics be so popular if they didn’t have 17 championships? The Lakers if they didn’t have 16?
Heat fans, like first-time car buyers, don’t know what they have or how to handle it. Many Heat fans are first generation Heat fans (and first-generation Americans). They didn’t have dads to take them to games and teach them the ways of watching basketball.
Allen’s three at the end of regulation was the first major buzzer beater with title implications in Heat history. Heat fans didn’t know how to handle it. It’s like giving a first-time driver a Ferrari. That kid isn’t going to know how to handle that hotness and he will crash eventually.
The Celtics were founded in 1946. The Lakers in 1947. The Heat? 1988. Many current fans remember the team’s first game. They didn’t have dads to tell them that you never leave a major game until it is over and arena staff start picking up plastic cups.
They didn’t have dads to tell them stories of Larry Bird and Michael Jordan hitting game-winning shots, and that those magical moments can happen at any time. This was the first magical moment in Heat history!
What would I have done if I didn’t have a dad to tell me how to buy a car? I would have ended up with either a Vespa or a Ford Mustang, nothing in between, and would have paid way too much for either one.
What would a Celtics fan do if Daddy O’Brennan never told him about the wonders of Bird’s shot in Game 7 of the 1981 Eastern Conference Finals against the 76ers? The same thing Heat fans did.
And you know what? Heat fans, fresh off their first line of coke for the night, wanted back in! They wanted back in to experience the magic! And the next day, the nation laughed at them. Saying they didn’t deserve to be let back in.
Celtics fans, Lakers fans, Knicks fans that grew up with dads taking you to games and teaching you the ways of the hoops, well, you know what, suck the left one. Because that is what we call a teaching moment.
Because Heat fans didn’t have Heat dads. This is, in many ways, the first generation of Heat fans. And that is a magical thing.