How hugely gigantic was Friday night's playoff game between the Miami Heat and the New York Knickerbockers? I can answer that question in two words: ``Donald Trump.'' He was there, in person, with a suit-wearing entourage of four men . Their job is to form a dense protective barrier between Mr. Trump and regular humans, including apparently whoever is responsible for dyeing his hair, leaving him no choice but to do it himself using Tang breakfast drink.
And Mr. Trump was only one of the famous celebrities on hand at the beautiful downtown Miami Arena (motto: ``Next Time, We'll Build It Right!''). We've heard a lot about all the big ``show biz'' names who regularly show up at the Knickerbockers' home games in Madison Square Garden, including Spike Lee, Woody Allen, Tom Brokaw, Peter Falk, Michael J. Fox, Mick Jagger, Jimi Hendrix and Renoir. But Miami matched that group star-for-star Friday night with a star-studded crowd that included such prominent South Florida entertainers as -- and this is only a partial list -- Jimmy Buffett, Burnie, Jimmy Buffett, several prominent local attorneys, Jimmy Buffett, and ``Dancing Joe,'' a grandfatherly gentleman who entertains the fans during timeouts by gyrating to rock music in such a way as to cause even the most hardened observer to say: ``Thank God he's not MY grandfather.''
The sellout crowd was on hand to witness what was probably the most crucial game in the history of the Heat franchise since the previous game, which the Heat lost. I am not going to make excuses for that defeat. Yes, the Heat was exhausted from the brutal Orlando series, but you can't blame fatigue. The Heat players are professionals; they're paid millions of dollars to perform on the court. So let's not pass the buck, Heat fans. Let's overcome our ``homer'' instincts and place the blame for losing game one where it belongs: squarely on the referees. They were definitely biased. I think one of them might actually have been Peter Falk. How else do you explain the fact that Alonzo Mourning picked up three fouls during the national anthem ?
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Of course it did not help that the Heat players were shooting free throws at a level of accuracy normally associated with Willie Nelson's tax returns. We cannot blame the referees for this: We have to take a hard look at our own team and accept the bitter truth that the baskets were probably adjusted wrong.
So the issue to be decided Friday night was: Could Miami bounce back? Could Coach Pat Riley devise an effective strategy? He has been doing that all season, which is why he's a hero in Miami -- in stark contrast to New York, where he's unpopular with the public and the media. Note the subtle difference in the way newspapers from the cities recently headlined the identical story about Riley:
The Miami Herald -- PAT RILEY: GENIUS? OR GOD?
The New York Post -- MORE DRIVEL FROM OIL-HEAD
Yes, there is little love lost between the Heat and the Knickerbockers, and you could see the intensity in the players' eyes Friday night as the teams battled up and down the floor, neither side giving an inch, each side seeking to write its own answer to the question posed by every athletic contest, namely: What on earth is a ``Knickerbocker''? I put that question to some random (believe me) fans at the Arena, and they gave me these definitions:
* ``It's a kind of sneaker.''
* ``It's a short pants.''
* ``It's a bizarre cult of beer drinkers in greater Utica.''
* ``I don't know, but I hope the Heat kicks the knickers out of their bockers.''
And that is exactly what happened. Apparently the baskets got readjusted, because the Heat did WAY better, with Tim Hardaway hitting jump shots from as far away as the Palmetto Expressway. And so the series is tied as the Heat heads for the Big Apple. We hope our men play well up there; we hope they win. But win or lose, we hope above all, as loyal Miami fans, that they take along ``Dancing Joe.''