Dan Le Batard

Dan Le Batard: Miami Heat fans’ emotional roller coaster begins

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.

But now?

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.

So, Heat fans, would you like your diaper in small, medium or large?

That stakes couldn’t get higher than they were in Year 1. But they got higher in Year 2. They couldn’t get higher than they were in Year 2. But now they are even higher. It is like the stakes are procreating — multiplying before your eyes like ants emerging from a kicked hill of sand. The caring and investment of the past three years have grown over time the way the best relationships do. And, like the most meaningful relationships in our real life outside of this fun-and-games world, we’re about to find out if we’re attending a funeral or a wedding.

All the Heat has to do is go through a Spurs team led by giant Tim Duncan, who has won as many professional championships as Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh combined.

Extra large? Would you prefer the extra-large option on the adult diaper?

Such a magical and weird thing, sports. Think about the ways you entertain yourself. Movies. Music. Dinner. Dancing. There is nothing anywhere in entertainment, nothing, that feels quite this way, combining fear, frenzy and fun. You might go to a disappointing concert, but it isn’t going to haunt you for days with that heavy the-more-you-care-the-more-it-lingers sickness. No matter how impacting or awful a movie, you aren’t likely to lose sleep or wake up the next morning thinking about the ending. But if the Heat loses this thing, and Heat fans can sleep that night, it will be the first awful thing that greets them upon waking. If the Heat wins this thing, and Heat fans can sleep that night, they will wake up feeling like winners. There is very little in life, never mind entertainment, that is this strange and wonderful combination of both borrowed and owned.

I had a ridiculous conversation with the audience on the radio this week. What’s the greatest feeling a human can feel? Love of a child, right? So I asked Heat-fan parents what level of shame they would allow their children to endure in exchange for a guaranteed victory. One parent wished one year of bad breath upon his child. Another made his son obese for a year (but made a huge moral parenting stand on his daughter). One parent put a banana peel on the stage at a school play. Another was OK with all his son’s classmates knowing the boy wasn’t well endowed. And all of this was for a guaranteed victory in the last round ... just to get to this one.

I told you.

This is dumb, unreasonable and lacks any and all perspective.

And tonight, thank you Heavenly Father, it is here.

Related stories from Miami Herald