As an avid Chicago Bulls fan, it was difficult to see them exit the NBA playoffs after the first round, yet even tougher to witness two of the franchises’ cornerstones, all-star point guard Derrick Rose and center Joakim Noah, have to miss the majority of the series with injuries. As is well known in the realm of sports, Noah suffered a high ankle sprain in game three and, sadly, Rose went down in the waning seconds of game one with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
As disheartening as these injuries were, I’m still a crazed sports fan at heart, and have begun rooting for a different team in these 2012 playoffs. Though this team is quite popular, they were a putrid 20-46 in the regular season and lost in the first round of this year’s playoffs. How does a team with a .303 winning percentage make the playoffs, and for that matter, is still competing for the Larry O’Brien Trophy after succumbing to a first round defeat? Well, it’s because I’m not cheering for an actual team. Rather, I’m hoping, praying, even trying to will the Miami Heat to futility.
Rooting against Lebron and co. has become more of a job than actual enjoyment, something I force upon myself so as not to misplace my animosity towards them. I can say with confidence that I am not the only person who watches Heat games just to cheer for the other team, and it happens more often than not in sports. Do Red Sox fans sit idle during a Yankees meltdown? Do Redskins fans sympathize with Tony Romo after yet another late-game collapse? Absolutely not!
Sports elicit strong emotions amongst amateur and professional athletes, as well as fans, which often identify themselves through their favorite teams. That’s why when Lebron James opted to sign with the Miami Heat instead of returning to Cleveland to play for his hometown Cavaliers, both cities’ fan bases experienced the most extreme sides of the sports spectrum: Fans in Miami held a showcase for its trio of superstars, where James and his new teammates, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, danced in their work attire, albeit conceding the idea that they would be the villains of the NBA. Cleveland, opposite of Miami’s ecstasy, was a little angry that its favorite son left, and proceeded to burn number twenty-three jerseys in the heart of town.
Though it was the state of Ohio that was wronged by Lebron, when he announced live, via ESPN, that he would be ‘taking his talents to South Beach,’ I couldn’t help but also feel betrayed. By no means am I a fan of any Cleveland sports team (a fate that should never be wished upon any man, I might add), but to an outsider, James’ decision voiced growing concerns over the lack of principal in professional sports. Here’s what can be deduced by analyzing James’ choice: There is no such thing as loyalty in professional sports anymore. James thwarted all of the relationships he built during his tenure in Cleveland, choosing to leave for Miami for a greater chance of accomplishing his only goal left of his young NBA career: To win a championship. No one can fault someone for trying to win a championship, although the Cavaliers made it to the NBA finals in 2007 (losing in four games to the San Antonio Spurs) and consistently contended in the Eastern Conference title chase. James’ decision also shed some light onto how much power players possess in the free agent process. The entire time he, Wade and Bosh were being courted by prospective teams, they were talking amongst themselves, looking for a way so that all three could play together. They took the ball out of the front offices’ hands. The Miami Heat didn’t choose them; they chose the Heat. And lastly, the decision of the three all-stars promoted a system of ‘buddy ball,’ where players want to sign with teams that their friends are on, decreasing the level of competition and rendering the league to pick up games.
These things make me despise the Heat, as their antics could possibly corrupt the NBA and other leagues. Luckily, it doesn’t appear that the NBA is nearing its death, but it doesn’t make rooting against the Heat any harder. They still have the best player and MVP of the league in James, and Wade, who serves as James’ sidekick, is a top five player in the league, and arguably the best at his position. The Heat flop, they cry to the referees, they bully other teams (a la Wade’s blatant and unnecessary shove of an unsuspecting Darren Collison), and most discouraging is that they play for an awful fan base in Miami, where the stands don’t fill entirely until the first quarter ends.
The Indiana Pacers are the three seed in the Eastern Conference, playing the two seeded Heat in the second round of the playoffs. After two games, the series is tied at one game apiece, after the Pacers inched out a victory in Miami to pull even with the Heat. The Heat are clearly more talented than the Pacers, and seem to get more calls their way than do the Pacers, as the Heat boast two of the games’ best players and the Pacers don’t. Yet after watching the Pacers defeat the Heat in game two, I’ve come to believe that the Pacers can actually beat the Heat in a seven-game series. Maybe it’s just my blind hope, or my ‘dislike’ of the Heat, but Indiana fans can take solace in the fact that they’ll have at least one extra fan cheering for their Pacers tonight.