If you are not a sports fan, you might want to stop reading now because you aren’t really going to understand this. It is going to lack perspective. It will sound lopsided and dumb. And it will be the textbook definition of unreasonable. It is somewhere between irrational and insane, though it will not make sense only in the way a foreign language doesn’t make sense until you care enough to learn it, at which time fluency brings clarity. But it is also going to be the God’s honest truth.
A fanatical portion of South Florida will enter a different realm of being beginning Thursday night because of how a basketball bounces, and it will feel completely crazy and cultish. Sports fans who care about championships, connecting themselves to the millionaire entertainers in a way that feels proprietary, finding identity in team colors and civic pride, essentially choose to be temporarily bipolar with this kind of investment, the manic highs and lows swinging from bliss to depression in a way that can take on the properties of a mood disorder.
Two years ago at about this time, the Miami Heat lost at the end in a crushing way, and what washed over the cult of fandom was something that felt like sickness. TVs were turned off to avoid coverage. Quiet, please, I’m not feeling well. Work was missed or done poorly. Not just a game was lost; so was sleep. It felt like a bone-weary flu that made the haunted want to throw up in a bucket. That feeling — of loss — was very real. And it was a weight to be carried around in stomachs like nausea for days or weeks depending on how deeply you had been afflicted. It is one of the oddest things about sports: Some fans hurt more profoundly than the players paid to have suffered the pain.
A year ago at about this time, though, this mood disorder swung the other way. The Heat won and not only purged itself of this awful feeling but gave the viral strain to the rest of a Heat-hating Sports America. South Florida was not only immune now; it delighted in giving this contagious disease to the rest of the country. It can be said without overstatement that the feeling — of winning, and of sharing the winning with your neighbors — gave people a happiness that made their daily lives feel better, if even for a moment, and even if other bad things were going on in those daily lives. Caring deeply can wound deeply, but caring deeply can also feel something like fulfillment, and that feeling can be so big and strong that you can feel it even though the accomplishment isn’t really even yours.
Well, this is interesting. Because now everything from those past two years is somehow squeezed into one seven-game series against the San Antonio Spurs. All of it. Two years of frenzied insanity has been condensed into two weeks, and it is like putting Disney World in a capsule. All that up and down has reached a tipping point that shakes and rattles the Heat’s blueprint every bit as much as it shakes the Heat’s arena. The only two exit ramps on this particular highway are Lunacy and Madness.
Win two championships in three years and the LeBron James Decision to come to Miami becomes a ringing success for the ages, remembered by South Florida and history as an inspired triumph. Lose two championships in three years, though, and you are mocked by a laughing America as a disappointment/failure again ... and the questions start anew and immediately about whether this, the most rallied-around team in the history of South Florida sports, will even be kept intact after next year.