Friday, June 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities: Championship Nights in Miami and Boston

By Joe Parello  @HerewegoJoe

I normally try to write in a way the average sports fan can relate to, but I'm pretty much gonna throw that out the window here: I just spent the last two nights at a Stanley Cup game in Boston and at Game 7 of the NBA Finals in Miami.

Before you dismiss this as a blog from a pompous jerk bragging about an awesome experience, give me the benefit of the doubt, and at least get these three points out of this.

1. Boston is a great sports town (Something you already knew).
2 South Florida is a weird freakin' place (Something you may have known).
3. My dad is awesomely crazy (Something you surely know if you've ever met the man).

Let's start with that last one, as I explain my recent championship night experience.

I called my dad on Father's Day, and the first thing he said to me was "Joe, it's Father's Day, but I've got a present for you."

That present was ice seats to Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Boston and Chicago Wednesday night. Keep in mind, my dad knows I'm not a huge hockey fan, and I haven't asked for tickets to anything this year. Not even to see my beloved Pittsburgh Steelers play the Patriots in Foxborough.

But, he knows I'm a sports nut, and he wanted to give me an experience. The tickets to the Heat game just kind of fell into place from a work friend of his, and before you knew it, I was 2nd row at championship games on back-to-back nights in my new home town and my old home town.

But, those two experiences could not have been more different, and that's where I'm going with this.

My friend Mike and I headed into the Garden after grabbing a few beers a couple blocks away, and we got to our seats before the puck dropped. Sitting next to us were two girls in Bruins sweaters and eye black, holding up signs for their favorite players.

In comparable seats the next night, my dad and I entered the American Airlines Arena to find that our seats came with access to the Grey Goose Lounge. Inside there, I was almost shoulder charged by DJ Khaled, grabbed a martini next to Vince Wilfork, watched Shaq scoop three pounds of stone crab onto his plate at the buffet and was moved out of the way as NBA commissioner David Stern walked to his table.

We then left the lounge and made out way to our seats, but we were stuck behind a big dude that kept stopping to give everyone high fives, hamming it up with the home crowd. I was slightly annoyed, but then I realized it was Cam Newton. Finally at our seats, which were just behind those younger Kardashian sisters that aren't actually Kardashians (Jenners, I think) and to the right of Drake, and every woman there had a fake something.

I'll start with lips, but you know the rest….

Flashback to Boston, where our section consists of two chubby, friendly Blackhawks fans that drove across the country to see the game, a pair of 30-somethings in front of us, and a ton of towel-waving nuts screaming at the top of their lungs.

Like I said, I'm not a huge hockey fan, so I relied on the people around me to explain some subtleties of the game. The Blackhawk and Bruin fans combined to school me on the different match ups that have become critical in this series, debate the merits of Tuukka Rask vs Tim Thomas and discuss which lines have been most effective against others.

Meanwhile, back in Miami, the guy behind me (Fake tan, white linen shirt unbuttoned down to seemingly his navel, man boobs and chest hair hanging out) is yelling "THAT'S A FOUL" every time Miami shoots the ball. I kid you not, even when LeBron and Battier were launching uncontested threes, this guy wanted a foul called.

The two kids sitting to the right of me, both really nice and around 14 or 15, didn't know what a pick and roll was. As I explained it to them, their eyes lit up, as if some wise sage had just enlightened them to the meaning of life.

At halftime, we headed back to our Grey Goose lounge, which was way more trouble than it was worth (Talk about a first world problem). By the time we got around the court and got in there, the third quarter was beginning. I grabbed a drink and hung out with my dad for a few, as people stood in there with their trophy wives cheering on the Heat as loud as they could…. While watching it on TV.

My father, who didn't pay for our tickets, just couldn't grasp people buying tickets (Going for over $15,000 on Stub Hub in that section) that exclusive… Only to watch the damn game on TV.

I wanted to grab those people on my way out of the bar and say "You know that game you're watching really intensely? It is actually happening on the other side of this curtain!"

Back in Boston, the Bruins went down 3-1, and those people didn't stop cheering for every hit, every poke check, every Rask save. Towels were waving, a giant Bruins flag was making its way around the crowd, and more than a few high fives and hugs were given out as the Bruins inched back toward tying the game.

When the game went to overtime at 5-5, you could feel the electricity in that place. People were banging on the glass every time the puck passed us, and there was an exciting, nervous energy overwhelming everybody whose eyes were locked on the ice.

Ultimately, the Blackhawks scored and won the game 6-5. The Bruins fans around us were bummed, but immediately began talking about adjustments for Game 5 in Chicago. The Hawks fans behind us told me it was nice to meet us, and headed out.

Flashback to Miami, and this is where the comparison becomes apples and oranges. LeBron hits that jumper, the Heat make free throws and win their second consecutive title. Half the fans ran down to the court to get as close as possible to the celebration, while the other half hit the exits to beat traffic.

My dad and I were in between. I saw a little of the trophy presentation, but the old man didn't want to stick around, so we got out of there pretty quickly. Out in the streets is where you saw that this title did mean something to Miami, despite what you think about fans in South Florida.

People were out in the streets with pots and pans, fireworks and Heat banners, singing "Ole" and dancing all over the place. Beat the traffic? Forget that! An impromptu fan parade had broken out on Biscayne Boulevard, and we sat in it for an hour.

These weren't even people coming out of the game, but those leaving the arena quickly joined the party that had started both by Bayside and the Cuban Freedom Tower.

These weren't the fans that left early in Game 6, these probably weren't even people that had attended any Heat playoff games because the rock show and celebrity experience has raised tickets prices to absurd levels. I think it's safe to say that there were no Kardashians or trophy wives in this party, but the real South Florida was there.

And man, it was a heck of a sight.

No comments :