Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Confessions of a Fair Weather Heat Fan

This is pretty much what I look like when I watch the Heat
 By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

As confetti rained down on the newly crowned champion San Antonio Spurs Sunday night, I was watching the series finale of the hot and cold NetFlix dramedy "Orange is the New Black."

As a sports fan, I know I probably should have been watching until the very end, but just after I finished watching the season finale of "Game of Thrones," I tuned into ABC to find my beloved Miami Heat trailing the Spurs by 21.

I figured, why watch something that I won't enjoy when I could see the conclusion of Piper Chapman's latest prison saga?

I, as you may have guessed, am a fair weather Heat fan, and I make no apologies for it.

The first thing you have to know is that there are true, die-hard South Florida sports fans out there. I went to high school with a bunch of them, and they care about their teams every bit as much as the Boston fanatics I now interact with on a daily basis.

These people have been rooting for the Heat since the franchise took its first baby steps toward respectability with guys like Glen Rice and Rony Seikaly in the early 90s, through their fine Zo/Hardaway teams later in the decade that feuded with the Knicks, up to the "Shaq in Black" teams and on through to the current "Big Three."

I am not one of those people.

I was that jerk that grew up in South Florida, but always rooted for my parents' hometown team. I was born in Pittsburgh and lived there for roughly four months as a lizard/turkey, but for some reason I adopted the Steelers as my "die-hard" team.

I then picked up the other Pittsburgh area teams, but none of them mattered to me the way the Steelers did. Sure, I was upset when the Penguins came up short of a Stanley Cup every year, despite the fact that they had two of the best offensive players in the world (sound familiar?), but my fandom was really with the Steelers. Those other teams, like the Pirates, who have stunk since I was five, just shared the same city and wore the same colors.

When it came to the NBA, which has no team in the 'Burgh, I was a bit of a fan free agent, but I knew that I couldn't root for the same team all those stupid Dolphins fans liked. So I decided to root for players, and my favorite as a kid was Shaquille O'Neal.

Shaq was a dominant post force that could run the floor, but he was also a giant goofball that made terrible movies and even worse rap albums. Naturally, I fell in love with Diesel, and became an Orlando Magic fan. When Shaq spurned the city that I loved (because, uh, Disney World), I hated him for a few years.

But, by the time Phil Jackson molded him and Kobe into one of the greatest teams in NBA history, I had forgiven him, similar to the way most casual NBA fans have forgiven LeBron James for "The Decision."

So, when the Shaq/Kobe feud came to a head and my favorite player found himself in Miami for my senior year of high school, I finally decided to root for my hometown team.

You know what? I loved it.

I was cheering for a team that I didn't have years of fandom invested in. When Miami bowed out to Detroit in the East Finals, it kind of sucked, but it wasn't nearly as bad as the Steelers losing to the damn Patriots in the AFC Championship game a few months prior.

I mean, come on Cowher! Ben Roethlisberger just gave you the greatest freaking rookie QB season ever and home field advantage, and you still screwed this thing up!

See, I'm still mad about that one. I don't even remember the Heat losing game seven to Detroit.

The next year, the Heat and Steelers both got over the hump and won championships. I had literally been waiting my entire life (admittedly only 18 years to that point, but still) to see the Steelers win a Super Bowl, so I was ecstatic.

But Miami climbing out of a 2-0 hole against Dallas and the emergence of Dwyane Wade was nearly as thrilling. Plus, while I got to share in the Steelers win with most of my family and rub it in my Dolphins fan friends' stupid faces, it felt good to actually root for the same team as my buddies in something.

The payoff was high: I got to enjoy the thrill of winning a championship with some of my best high school friends.

While the risk was low: If Miami lost, I went on living my life, which at the time included lifting weights, teaching tennis to small children and stealing rum from my parents' liquor cabinet.

Most "true fans" look down on this attitude, saying that if you haven't suffered through your team's low points, you don't deserve to enjoy the good times.

But, when you think about it, isn't that really the healthy way to watch sports?

I wish I could turn off a Steelers blowout loss and watch something else. I wish I could tune in later to watch Pittsburgh's opponents talk about their win without feeling legitimate contempt for them. I wish I didn't remember every single playoff loss the Steelers have suffered since I was four.

But I can't, I definitely can't and I do.

If my Steelers fandom were more like my allegiance to the Heat I would probably be a mentally healthier person.

If that makes me a "bad fan," then so be it, but I've greatly enjoyed watching this Heat team win, and I haven't really minded tuning out when it loses. Who knows what happens next for this franchise, but I think I'm locked into being a Heat fan for life now.

Just not a die-hard one.

1 comment :

Anonymous said...

Pacers Baby! ;)