Miami Heat fans should be absolutely ashamed of themselves.
The funniest part of the mass exodus out of the arena with 28 seconds remaining in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was the Instagram picture showing one of the fans on the elevator in an old purple No. 34 Milwaukee Bucks jersey, where Ray Allen played once upon a time.
So that fan and numerous others chose to give up on LeBron James and arguably the greatest three-point threat in pro basketball history. They should have immediately turned in their fan cards at the gates as they departed.
After Ray “Jesus Shuttlesworth” Allen hit his game-tying three to send Game 6 into overtime, fans attempted to scurry back into the arena, only to be rebuffed by security.
And what was the point by then? They had already missed history. You can’t simply wind the clock back five minutes and re-live it.
Everybody knows that at almost every sports venue readmission is not allowed. A sizable percentage of Heat Nation threw in the towel, and good for security for standing firm and not letting them back in.
I have a personal rule, especially if fortunate enough to attend a playoff or championship game/series: be in the building for the duration of the contest.
It would be one thing to leave a regular season game where hypothetically the Heat trail the Atlanta Hawks by eight with about 45 second remaining. That would give you a good chance to beat the traffic, especially if you work the next day. If the home team manages to pull that one out you knew that risk when leaving, and it’s just one of 82 regular season games.
For a playoff game – and especially an elimination game in a championship series – the situation is much different.
For starters, you likely have made a significant financial investment to attend that game. Secondly, one of my rules of being a true fan of an organization is to be there at the time of death.
I attended Game 6 of the National League Championship Series at Miller Park in 2011. That game was over by the second inning, the St. Louis Cardinals already had an insurmountable lead on my Milwaukee Brewers and David Freese had crushed my team’s hopes by that point. But I stayed for the rest of that game, right down to the final out.
Others left early that night, allowing Cardinals fans the chance to move up into choice field-level seats. It was painful to watch them celebrate on my team’s turf, but I owed it to the team I support to be there at that moment. After all, I was in the park nine days earlier when the Brewers won a dramatic deciding Game 5 in the previous round. I was there for the good times and had an obligation to be there for the end and thank my team for an outstanding year.
I wish I could say I have never been personally guilty on bailing on a huge game, but I managed to do so two months ago.
The Toronto Maple Leafs had taken a 4-1 lead on the Boston Bruins midway through the third period of Game 7 of their first-round NHL playoff series. I declared the series over on Twitter, and wasn’t even concerned when the Bruins scored minutes later. They still needed two more goals, then to win in overtime. It wasn’t going to happen.
I switched channels and washed some dishes for a few minutes before deciding to turn hockey back on. I tuned back in right after the Bruins scored twice to tie the game after pulling the goaltender in the waning minutes. Despite not being a fan of either team, I was absolutely pissed because I had just missed out on history.
But very few left the Boston arena that night, they were going to stay for the postgame handshakes and give their beloved team a final ovation, even after what would had been a devastating defeat.
Heat fans should have done the same last night, especially if there was even a remote chance of a comeback. Even if there wasn’t, they should have stayed for the trophy presentation to give due props to Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and the rest of the San Antonio Spurs organization. You tip your cap to an opponent when the occasion calls for it.
And it wasn’t like didn’t have a chance. Yes, it was a dire situation, but a simple understanding of math told me the Heat still had life. It wasn’t like a comeback like that has never happened before in pro basketball.
And this isn’t even the first time Heat fans have been accused of giving up on the team during the 2013 playoffs. In a similar situation during the Eastern Conference Final, fans left early with the team trailing by three in the waning seconds, which led to an on-air rant by the Indiana Pacers radio voice, who suggested that Miami doesn’t deserve any NBA team. Miami players were not happy neither, with Chris Bosh suggesting that the fans who left early Tuesday stay away from Game 7.
Listening to that final sequence of regulation in my car on the way home last night I couldn’t believe what I was hearing after Allen tied the game. It didn’t sound like 20,000 fans cheering in the arena, it sounded more like 12,000. If the shoe was on the other foot and this was the Spurs pulling it out on their home floor, you can be sure most fans would have still been in the building.
But instead, hang this on the legacy of the South Florida sporting scene, and Dan LeBatard called out the fanbase on social media shortly afterwards.
Last night’s NBA Finals game will go down as one of the greatest in history, it’s a shame some Miami Heat fans didn’t stick around to watch.