You can debate whether Miami Heat fans rank as the most loyal in the NBA, as a Forbes Magazine ranking claimed. But based on those at AmericanAirlines Arena for Sunday’s 2013 playoff opener, there’s no argument of which fan base carries the least anxiety.
No worries, man. Not about security at a large sporting event. Not about whether the Heat will repeat as NBA titlists. And certainly not about first round opponent Milwaukee, which most fans regarded as a playoff appetizer.
“It’s a warmup for the team to get ready for the playoffs,” Fort Lauderdale’s Thomas Wander said. “Just a warmup. It’ll be a good four games then we’ll get ready for the next round.”
Hollywood’s Fernando Terracuso leaned against a railing in his Glen Rice Heat jersey and said he saw the first round going five games.
“People are not giving Milwaukee a chance, but they’re a pretty good team who can surprise people,” Terracuso said. “They did beat us once this year, so…I think in five.”
(“That’s a dope jersey!” a passerby said to Terracuso.)
“The real problems might be Chicago, Indiana, the teams that have always given the Heat problems in the regular season,” said Miami Beach’s Anthony Jimenez, sporting a Keith Askins jersey.
As far as total games to take the title, the estimations ran from 16 to 22. Last year, the Heat took a total of 23 games, being stretched to the seven-game limit only in the Eastern Conference final by Boston.
“I think it’ll be a lot less this year than it was last year,” Palm Beach County’s Jose Bosch said. “I don’t think New York is as hyped up…it’s only Melo [Carmelo Anthony]. Boston doesn’t have [point guard Rajon] Rondo. It’s going to be a lot easier to get there this year.”
As usual, fans snapped pictures of each other on the front steps of the arena, which has seen more posing than any Paris or Milan runway in recent years. A child trumpet player blatted out When the Saints Come Marchin’ In as well as Kurtis Blow’s Basketball.
Last week’s Boston Marathon bombings couldn’t take a slice out of the usual festive Heat playoff pregame atmosphere outside the arena.
“It was one incident,” Wander said. “We can’t worry about that. This is Miami, man. I feel safe here.”
Bosch, bringing his 7-year-old son Jake to the boy’s first Heat game of any kind, said “You’ve got to move on.”
Jimenez pointed out the increased police presence and that wire mesh trash receptacles replaced the cement ones that dotted surrounding sidewalks.
After an NBA Finals appearance the first year after joining LeBron James and Chris Bosh with Dwyane Wade and an NBA title in the second year, there certainly was the chance Heat fans would adopt the mindset that fans of Major League Baseball’s Atlanta Braves or the NHL’s New Jersey Devils did during the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The Braves and Devils made the playoffs every year with the expectation of at least making the World Series or Stanley Cup Final. First round games often didn’t sell out. Fans figured either a) the team would make it through, so they might as well save their money for later rounds or b) the team would suffer a massive upset loss they didn’t want to drop playoff ticket money to see.
Not so the Heat fans this year.
According to the Heat website, Tuesday’s Game 2 sold out during Sunday’s first period. Aside from the season ticket holders, most of the fans who spoke to The Herald expected to make four playoff games this year, one per round it takes to win the NBA title.
Bosch said he didn’t make any playoff games last year, but this year “It’s a back-to-back year. You don’t do this all the time.”