MIAMI HEAT

Miami Heat: Bringing us together

 

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mputney@justnews.com

Let us now praise famous men — starting with the ones who play for the Heat. LeBron, Dwyane, Chris (we’re well past the need for last names) and all the rest, along with owner Micky, President Pat, Coach Spo and his staff.

Whew, what a ride they gave us for the past few weeks. Don’t know about you, but I’m exhausted.

Also exhilarated. The Heat made us all feel like winners. It was their sweat, but our blood. We made a psychic investment in them, and the return on investment has been phenomenal. They took us out of our mundane, workaday lives for a brief time and raised the level of our game as they raised theirs. The Spurs, along with earlier playoff teams, are left with the agony of defeat. We are enjoying the thrill of victory. How sweet it is.

But also how fleeting. This era of good feeling, shared achievement and unification will, alas, soon evaporate. So before the last pot is banged and the last confetti thrown, it may be useful to ponder how we can continue this feel-good moment, this sense that we are all — despite our very real differences — in this together. The late Gov. Lawton Chiles, bless him, used to say that Florida needs to be a community, not a crowd. Thanks to the Heat, we are exactly that right now.

The Heat drew us into their ambit not just because they’re a bunch of great basketball players, but because they’re a great team.

As Shane Battier (with whom you could discuss Sartre as well as three-pointers) put it during Monday’s party at the AAA, “That’s what it’s all about, doing your job for your brothers in the locker room.” These guys are a band of brothers. White, black, tattooed, mohawked, they put aside their differences, sublimated their egos and sacrificed for the greater good. If there were complaints, they kept them to themselves.

Udonis Haslem, the Heat’s heart and soul, benched for the seventh game because he didn’t fit the match-ups? No problem. Mike Miller, mostly benched in Game 7 because Battier finally had the hot hand? No problem. Dwyane Wade devoting the entire day of the final game to therapy for his bruised, aching knees? You do whatever it takes. “It was war,” LeBron said during Tuesday’s ceremonies at the AAA, “mentally, physically, emotionally. It was a grind.”

Which makes winning so sweet, for the Heat and all of us. South Florida needed this win. We’ve been battered by the recession, high unemployment, a real-estate bust that lasted five years, unprecedented home foreclosures, etc. We needed some relief, and the Heat provided it. But not before we went through fits of atrial fibrillation and manic depression. Along with moments of pure euphoria.

We rode those highs and lows along with the players, who became personalities in our lives. There was the overwhelming physicality and infinite skill of LeBron, “the best bleeping basketball player on the planet,” as Wade said Monday. Wade showed the “Flash” of old just when we needed it. Chris Bosh, his black teeth guard making him look fearsome, blocking shots right and left. Mario Chalmers being treated by teammates like their irritating little brother, but fearless in his shot-making. The tattooed Birdman with his arms flapping after a put-back, Mike Miller with his barrette, Ray Allen with his curled-lip snarl — rising up to make that all-or-nothing three-pointer to tie the sixth game. Grace under pressure. These are moments we shall not forget.

How do we make them last? How do we learn to come together and feel some of the unity of purpose and shared spirit of teamwork for other goals? The last time we came together like this was after Hurricane Andrew when neighbors who’d lost almost everything shared with neighbors who had even less. We opened our homes and checkbooks to those who’d lost so much. It made us a better community. So has this Heat victory.

I hope that kids from Parkland to Perrine and beyond watched the games and saw a group of black and white men exhibit not only great teamwork, but also mutual respect and great sportsmanship. After wins and losses they hugged each other.

Players on the bench cheered loudest for those on the floor. Race and ethnicity were never mentioned. After Game 7 the Heat players embraced those from the Spurs. San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich was among the first on the floor to congratulate the Heat. Talk about class, talk about character. This was it.

So Heat, thanks for lifting us up, making us feel like winners, bringing us together. You’re the champs — again. And for the moment, we are, too.

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