Earlier this week, the Miami New Times posted an article about the Five Reasons Miami Heat Fans Deserve Respect. It’s an excellent piece that uses statistics and various examples as to why the universal disdain towards Heat fans is misguided. It also uses my favorite gif of all time.
And none of it matters.
You see, the narrative of Heat Nation being terrible fans is already firmly in place and there’s no way to change it. It’s a mindless debate that we’re trying to fight out of pride and stubbornness, yet the result will always be frustration and annoyance.
Social media has made this narrative a life of its own, yet actual members of the media have helped given it legitimate credence. Whether it’s ESPN or loud-mouth columnists looking to get page views, once respected outlets start to spread the word, it moves like a virus.
No, I don’t believe ESPN directly has it out for Heat fans, since it’s ridiculous for a major network to single out a fanbase. But they are at the epicenter of broadcasting sports news, and they have the ability to directly affect the way information gets directed. ESPN can weave a storyline however they see fit, just for the purpose of suiting its benefits (remember Tim Tebow?) Truth be told, I believe ESPN was playing a hand that they were dealt when it came to the Heat.
That hand? In the summer of 2010, the Heat got LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh. They held a pep rally. They anointed themselves a dynasty. They did everything short of hanging banners in the rafters, and ESPN decided to jump on the local feed so they could air that for the world to see.
And a villain was born.
Of course, LeBron’s “Not one, not two, not three…” speech didn’t help matters, but the sight of Heat fans celebrating a big moment in the history of their favorite franchise cast a dark cloud over them. That cloud was “Who do they think they are? They haven’t done a thing to cheer about!” But that’s Miami in a nutshell. The loudest, obnoxious person at the party. It’s just that nobody outside of Miami could understand that.
Up until then, the Heat had only been around for 22 years. To older NBA fanbases, the Heat were “Generation X”, with all their loud music and DJs at their games. The fans arrived late and left early, to either beat traffic or get a table at the clubs. The Heat were the first to give shirts away for playoff games so everyone wears the same color. They can’t be real fans.
Sure, much like the Miami New Times article, you can hold up all the facts and stats that you like, your argument is going to be invalid. You want to counter against ESPN or social media by using facts? That’s futile. ESPN is built on being the loudest and gaudiest sports network on television, while members of social media are a faceless opponent. It’s like playing chess against a pigeon; no matter how well you can move the pieces strategically across the board, the pigeon will just strut onto the board, knock all the pieces over, and puff out its chest. It’s ridiculous.
ESPN’s programming is predicated on loud, pointless topics that gets regurgitated over the course of the day. All their talking head shows are all the same: pick a topic; media members argue with each other; repeat. Skip Bayless, Stephen A. Smith, Colin Cowherd, Michael Wilbon, etc, they’re all the same person. People treat what they say like it’s the gospel because they say it loudly; you can’t avoid it. Problem is, they’re not saying anything at all. But that’s ESPN in a nutshell, which is actually smart, since it brings in ratings.
So how can Heat fans combat the noise? They can’t. You can rattle off all the players that played for the Heat in their 26 years of existence and it still wouldn’t matter. You might win your individual argument (“OK, you’re a real fan, but a lot of Heat fans aren’t”), however it doesn’t do anything against the narrative as a whole. I’ve always thought the “front-running fan” debate was the dumbest one fans can have. It’s like kids arguing over whose dad can win in a fight.
What is a front-running fan, anyway? Is it someone that only goes to games when a team is good? But what if they watch it at home, even when the team is bad; does that count? But if it’s defined as “fans who only go to game when the team is good”, doesn’t that mean everybody is a front-runner? I mean, were there really this many Patriots fans before 2001? In the New Times article, it stated that the Celtics ranked middle of the pack in attendance before 2008, so are Boston fans front-runners? What about New York? The Mets ranked twentieth in Major League Baseball in attendance; are they front-runners? That’s silly! It’s New York! How about the Clippers? Where did those fans come from? Or are there some Laker fans thrown in there?
Or how about the newly loveable Cleveland Cavaliers? They’re such terrific fans (according to Charles Barkley) that they sold out every game, even after LeBron. Oh wait, they didn’t. But LeBron is back, and so are the fans. Are they not front-runners? There really should be rules laid out or something.
Oh, how about that time that 50 people left Game 6 of the 2013 Finals 28 seconds early? That never happens anywhere else. Well, except Indiana. Or that Dodgers World Series game that had a somewhat famous home run hit to right field, while a trail of taillights flee from Dodger Stadium in the background. Otherwise, Heat fans are the only ones to leave a game early because they thought they would lose.
I don’t like when stadiums/arenas aren’t full every night, either. But is someone a bad fan for not going to watch a bad team? It’s like going to watch what you know is going to be a bad movie; why bother spending your hard earned money on something that is going to be awful? I’ll watch it on Netflix or HBO. Does that make me a bad “Ninja Turtles” fan for thinking that their new movie is going to suck, therefore I’ll watch it at home when it’s available to me?
But this is all pointless. The narrative is in place and there’s no arguing that. Why waste your time digging up facts and stats to support your arguments if those you’re arguing with are too dense to understand? Or their minds are made up because Wilbon or Barkley yell it on TV for no reason?
Because we’re fans. We care that much. Whether you’re a Heat, Bulls, Yankees, Bruins, Cavs, Brewers, 49ers, or Twins fan, you will fight to the bitter end because you have pride for that logo you love almost as much as a family member. It doesn’t really matter whose obnoxious voice is screaming in your ear.
That’s what being a fan is all about.