DISCLAIMER: Before you bash me about sports not being that big of a deal, I completely agree. Religion, family, friends, and education are just a few of the things I find to be much, MUCH more important than sports. There are bigger fish to fry in the grand scheme of things, and that, I can completely understand. In addition, this isn’t meant to be personal. While I know many of the people I refer to in this piece, it’s not about attacking their character as human beings. Some of the most wonderful people are some of the worst fans I have ever met. One has nothing to do with the other. This is strictly about fandom, or the lack there of. That all being said, I would like to begin.
Some of you may not know, but I grew up a transplanted Ohio State Buckeye and Cleveland sports fan in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
I spent my first year of college at the University of Miami (FL), before coming home to Ohio to fulfill my dream of being a student at The Ohio State University.
Growing up as a Cleveland fanatic in Florida was tough, especially after July 8, 2010. It was maybe one of the toughest single days of my life. Of course, I’ve had tougher times, but as for days by themselves, that’s gotta be one of the top ten worst so far. Calls and texts pouring into my phone read: “WOW, CLEVELAND SUCKS.” “F*** YOU, F**** CLEVELAND, WE HAVE LEBRON NOW.” “TAKE THAT CLEVELAND HAHAHAHAHA”.
They referred to me as Cleveland, as they viewed me as a representative of the city itself; a role I gladly accepted and even cherished.
While most Cleveland fans were upset that LeBron left town, I was upset that LeBron left AND that, of course, he came right to my backyard. It’s as if he was shoving the Decision right into MY face, and no one else’s. Of course, that wasn’t true, (as far as I know), but it certainly felt that way.
I like to think that I had a more difficult situation than essentially anyone when it came to LeBron and the Decision. He spurned the city that I love wholeheartedly and came to the city right next door, a city I don’t care for.
I was shocked, mortified, petrified, and just flat out angry.
Instantly, my friends, the LeBron backers that were bandwagon Cavs fans, turned against me with a couple of words. It was now complete hatred for Cleveland and everything the Cavs stood for.
Of course, I had been used to the ridicule, however.
1997 was constantly thrown in my face.
“Who did the Marlins beat in the 1997 World Series, Hayden?” my friends would ask. “The Indians”, I said, a frown drooping across my face.
So was the 2007 National Championship Game.
“Who did the Gators trash in the 2007 National Championship Game, Hayden?” “The Buckeyes”, I would answer in a mellow tone.
It was if my whole life was based on constant trashing from the state of Florida and their sports. I could never back it up, and still can’t.
The only thing I have, something that Miami will never have, is an unbridled fandom, faith, and belief in my teams and the city of Cleveland.
That’s what I use against them, if I ever use anything against them. I’ve learned to just let it be. There’s not much I can do to change the fact that Florida has dominated Ohio in essentially every sporting situation ever recorded.
I’m not going to become a Miami fan anytime soon, and I’ll never back down from my loyalties to Cleveland.
I’m telling you all of this just to give you my perspective and to legitimize myself as a first-hand witness of the fans and “fans” of the Miami Heat.
I’ve seen a lot of trashing and bashing of Heat fans, and some of it is absolutely warranted.
I laughed and shook my head as I saw the Vine that showed Heat fans leaving Game 6 of the NBA Finals early. Their team ended up winning the game, and they left early. I could never imagine such a thing. It’s absolutely ludicrous.
However, I have some news for you: that’s not how all Miami fans work.
You see, there is a contingent, a VERY small contingent, of legitimate Miami Heat fans. They often occupy the upper deck of the American Airlines Arena. They are the loudest section of the stadium.
There are wealthy fans too, however.
I know many Heat fans who sit very close to the Miami bench who are at most, if not all regular season, post-season, and Finals games. They’ve grown to care, win or lose. They show up, regardless of the opponent or the importance of the game. That, I can respect.
I respect these Heat fans who cared when they won 15 games in 2007-2008, and lost in the first round of the NBA Playoffs in three out of four years, from 2006-2010. There were people who showed up and cheered on their Heat until the very last whistle during those difficult seasons.
I knew kids who wore Eddie Jones jerseys like it was their job. They loved Michael Dolec with a sick, yet awesome, passion. They defended Dwyane Wade with every fiber of their fandom. They said, “Dwyane is better than LeBron, where are LeBron’s rings?”
However, the Heat have an epidemic, and it makes those fans, the real fans, sick.
When you live in South Florida, you hear essentially nothing about the Heat- unless you listen very closely- for most of the regular season. Of course, when they won 27 straight games, that was a different story.
But before LeBron came to town, you wouldn’t hear about the Heat, period. Sure, every now and then you would get a “Wade County” from a serious fan, but the bandwagon was essentially empty. Those serious fans, the Heat fans that I respect, were certainly into it, but again, they were a very, very small minority.
Then LeBron came to town and all of those people who had rode the bandwagon through the tough times, through the hard parts of town, through the treacherous forest, cold and damp, were joined by the thousands who came aboard just as the Heat got to the sunny, beautiful, and warm beach. The beach otherwise known as LeBron’s arrival.
They were too happy to care about these people claiming to be fans. They didn’t care. In fact, they welcomed them initially. Finally, they were reaping the benefits of riding the bandwagon for so long.
Eventually, however, those Heat fans got sick and tired of the frauds clamoring up the wagon and taking their room, just to leave as things got tough again.
After three straight Finals runs, there is now a routine in Miami.
Essentially, the regular season is the preseason, and the preseason is non-existent. So, just as in the preseason, people don’t care. They don’t show up, don’t pay attention, and think that there are only three players on the team. It’s once the postseason starts that the faint rumble of people running to the bandwagon begins.
People dust off their “white hot” shirts that they bought for the annual playoff run and, suddenly, bam! The Heat bandwagon is full and everyone pretends to care about the Heat.
“Where did LeBron go to college?”, they ask.
“Bosh is a point guard? What is his batting average?”
“Alonzo Mourning still plays right?”
These questions come about more often than not, and I sit there and shake my head until it nearly falls off.
During the playoffs, you still don’t see Facebook posts, Tweets, and the nonesuch about the Heat, because people are watching, but not paying attention. They know that LeBron will get them to the Finals, and that’s when they can begin to pay attention.
The Finals come around and the entire city of Miami, and for some reason the entire country, is on the bandwagon. It’s barely able to stand up it’s so heavy. Fortunately, the only thing that saves it, the wagon, is a Heat loss in the Finals. If the Heat lose a single Finals game, that bandwagon gets a lot lighter.
If the Heat win, however, you better watch out. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Text Messages, Phone Calls will be piling up. They’ll all say, “I LOVE THIS TEAM”, “WITNESS”, “OMG HEAT”, or “I. CAN’T. BREATHE.”.
These are, sadly, the same people that are walking out of the arena early. The ones that hadn’t watched an entire game for the whole season, the ones that hadn’t stepped foot inside the arena, are now the biggest Heat fans on the planet.
The sad part is, the Facebook posts, the Tweets, the Instagrams, and the SnapChats are literally the same ones that happen in Cleveland and Detroit. However, these social-media posts from Cleveland and Detroit fans are after a regular season baseball game between the Tigers and Indians, not the NBA Finals.
So, the majority of you are right in thinking that Miami has terrible fans, as they do. However, they’re not all terrible. There are people who genuinely care about this team each and every day of the year.
They’re season ticket holders. They know who Juwan Howard is. They know where Shane Battier went to college. They know LeBron James’ free throw percentage.
They wish that it that it wasn’t the way it is. They wish they could keep the bandwagon for themselves. It’s awfully annoying to have room for the entire season and then be cramped for a few games out of the year, when things are supposed to be the most enjoyable. They want the bandwagon all to themselves.
Unfortunately, that’s the way of the fickle fans, or should I say people, of this generation. They only want to be present during the good times, not during the offseason, when the work is hard, or during bad seasons when times are tough.
I don’t know when it got to be that way for all of America, but living in Miami, it’s the case more than maybe anywhere I’ve ever been.
So, that’s the truth about Heat fans. They exist. They are real. And they care in a big, big way. The problem is, they are microscopic in terms of the entirety of the Miami Heat “fan”-base.
It’s unfortunate for them, but it’s true. It makes championships less enjoyable than they normally would be. It makes good times seem just ok.
I really feel for those people and respect them as fans. I know a lot of them, and, whether they know it or not, I respect them. I feel for them when they lose, and congratulate them when they win.If they’re reading this, they know who they are.
For the others, however, I have respect for them as fellow human beings, but as sports fans, they will never earn my respect. I simply won’t have it. Talk to me when you’ve suffered through a 15-67 Heat season, like many of your fellow fans have. Don’t talk to me after you watched three games, (Games 5,6, and 7 of the NBA Finals) and really only watched them because there was a party going on.
Just simply don’t refer to yourself as a Heat fan, and I’ll gain respect for you in terms of sports. Just say, “I like watching the Heat in the Finals.”, or “I like it when my friends are happy, so that’s why I watch the Heat.” It’s not hard, just tell the truth, and I’m not going to judge you.
Again, and I can’t emphasize this enough, it is not important to be a fan. My father isn’t necessarily a sports fan, and he is a person I look up to, respect, and love more than anyone on this earth. However, and he would probably agree, if you’re going to call yourself a fan, you better live up to that name. And, quite honestly, many Heat “fans” don’t even come close.
This isn’t solely about Miami either. I am sure that this is the case around many other cities and with many other teams. It’s not exclusive to the Heat, in the least. It’s just that the Heat are the most publicized team in sports, and therefore, are the most open to criticism.
Don’t claim to be something you are not. That’s when I start having a problem with you, the “fans” of the Miami Heat.