This Miami Heat team is so great.
So very, very great.
Im not talking about how the Heat is playing at the moment, which is decidedly less than great.
Im talking about all the delightful, terrifying crazy theyve given us for three years now.
Everything somehow keeps escalating, which seems impossible given the dizzying, difficult-to-breathe heights weve already experienced. One victory ago, it felt like everything was coming together; one loss later, it feels like everything is falling apart. Perspective? It gets swallowed whole by emotion now, like a T-Rex eating a Teacup Maltese.
Game 7 tonight. Best thing in sports. In a building that will bounce and sway with the odd combination of joy and terror. In the world of fun and games, things dont get any BIGGER than this.
This feels awful. This feels wonderful. Wonder-awful? Never mind finding this anywhere else in entertainment. There isnt very much in life that feels quite like this yo-yoing of feelings from day to day, not unless you are in a passionate relationship with a crazy person, and you swing wildly from the fights to the making up. It is hard to live here, in the extremes, for extended periods. It is exhausting, no matter the result you get. You cant sleep because you are wired from a triumph. You cant sleep because you toss and turn with haunting after a loss. Your work suffers. You suffer. Isnt it great?
And the Heat havent even trailed in this best-of-seven series; theyve only been tied or ahead. Up 1-0. Up 2-1. Up 3-2. And yet you still feel terror, right? Imagine if youd been behind. Youd spend the game penguin-walking to the bathroom to avoid the dirty pants. The first time the Heat will be behind can be at the end of tonight, at which point the season would end with a thudding finality that would send South Florida into depression and allow the rest of Sports America to mock and laugh at us again.
That crown on the head of LeBron James shut everyone up for one full year. But it can be knocked off tonight by 7-2 Roy Hibbert and his army of muscle, and the silence would suddenly be replaced by a laughter that felt like it had been killed in these parts. In other words, the stakes tonight have been ratcheted right back up to that wonder-awful place where South Florida spent the last two seasons. This is only insane. Lose tonight, just one time, and the blueprint goes right from success to disappointment as soon as that clock hits zero.
For three years, weve poured emotion and interest and money and time into this relationship with the Miami Heat, and now weve followed them right to the edge of a cliff. Look down there. So far to fall from here. So very far. Are you afraid of dying? Or do you feel so much more alive? Champion athletes rise to these moments, play in them, live for them, the challenge heightened for challenge-aholics. Shane Battier talked recently about how you need to be punched in the nose to feel more alive. He said this after Game 2 of this insanity. And he has since been benched.
You need the fear to have the fun, odd as that is to say. And the doubt has to grow before the appreciation can. That four-game sweep of the Milwaukee Bucks in the first round didnt give South Florida much of anything that resembled exhilaration or pain. If the Heat win tonight, you will feel joy and relief, and that feeling will be profound. If they lose, youll crawl to work in the morning on your hands and knees, and that feeling will be profound. But you need that nausea in your stomach, like the first time you jump out of a plane, to feel like youve done something when you land. There is always more fulfillment when one of the things being conquered is your fear.