Friday, November 12, 2010
Turn up the Heat
As a precursor, albeit an obvious and possibly not necessary precursor, let me say I have no favorite NBA team. I am a basketball fan, but never found allegiance with any city's team. If I rooted for, say, the Kings, I obviously would not want the Miami Heat to succeed; I would be buying my Cousins jersey and trading for Beno Udrih as a nice fantasy sleeper, hoping for the unlikely Sacramento title run.
But since I am an NBA vagabond, I am free to flip and flop my rooting interest with whomever I choose, and the Miami Heat are who I am rooting for.
There are many reasons for this, some tremendously sensible, others very nonsensical.
The first, and perhaps the most important reason is that LeBron and Co. saved the NBA. Not literally of course, but in the mind of viewers.
You see, people don't watch the NBA. I personally don't watch regular season NBA games unless there is some specific reason, like I happen to be in the arena for said match. Otherwise, I can miss the entire NBA regular season and not bat an eye. By "miss" I am referring to not watching any game from start to finish. I follow the standings, follow the players and stats, play fantasy basketball, and the sort, but watching a complete NBA game was always pointless, especially since most regular season games mean nothing in the scheme of the entire season.
Until now, that is.
Now, every Miami Heat regular season game means something. Not necessarily to the Heat themselves, but to their opponents. Everyone gets up to play them. Every Heat game is must-watch entertainment. Even last night's Heat - Celtics game got Paul Pierce all riled up afterwards, leading to a semi-funny tweet that got re-tweeted much too often. But the point is, the Celtics cared about a game in mid-November only because of their opponent.
This will continue to happen all season long I assume, making the Heat the only team that is must-see from November through May. The NBA has stars that people enjoy watching. Durant, Kobe, or Carmelo might affect some television numbers, but unless you're a die hard fan, there's no point in wasting your time watching any other specific team all season. Too many of the games are just pointless.
Besides tuning in to watch the greatest NBA soap since Shaq and Kobe shared a locker room, fans will also be sticking with this team all season to see if they can put "it" together. Putting it together has different connotations depending on who you are referring to. If the Knicks put it together, they have a chance to make the playoffs. Same goes for the Kings. If the Thunder put it all together, they have a chance to make noise in the Western Conference Finals. But if the Miami Heat put it together, they have a chance to win five straight NBA titles. There's the dividing line. There's the greatness factor that Miami brings.
To piggyback on that point, I enjoy rooting for greatness. Unless you root for the opponent, I see no reason to root against a great team. Dynasties, no matter what the media would make you believe, are the best thing a sport can have. People may say they love parity but people watch dynasties. Fans that root for underdogs are really just troublemakers. They would rather see something fall apart than come together.
Everyone loves Cinderella runs by small schools in NCAA March Madness...but only up until the Sweet Sixteen or so. After that, no one wants to watch George Mason or Richmond anymore. We want to see the best two teams play each other.
If college football ever got rid of the BCS, switching to a 12 team playoff, and we had a fluky title game where BYU played Pittsburgh, critics would be calling for a new BCS faster than Marlo turned on Prop Joe.
Underdog runs are fun only up until a point. Do you know how embarrassing it is that the St. Louis Cardinals won the World Series in 2006? Do you recall how bad that team was? At least the Giants this season had dominant pitching.
So I would rather see the Miami Heat make the finals than some of these other up-and-comers, just because I would rather my NBA finals be a great product rather than an odd story.
Not saying that the Heat are clearly the best team, because thus far they clearly are not, but when the best team does not win the title, I, as a fan, feel a bit slighted. Was the regular season a waste of my time and energy? Do we really know nothing about this sport if such an upset is possible? I feel more comfortable as a fan, more secure in my sports knowledge, when the best team comes out on top.
This is why I want LeBron to be able to coexist with Dwyane. This is why I want Chris Bosh to not suck and the Heat to find someone to play inside. This is why I want LBJ to switch permanently to point guard or for Mario Chalmers/Carlos Arroyo to catch fire. This is why I want Mike Miller to come back. I want the Heat to be a championship caliber team. I want to have greatness to root for.
I know at least one other person who is on my side with this: David Stern.
(Image taken from nba.com/heat)