Finals Frenzy, Fair-Weather Fans

We are in the midst of another NBA Finals Frenzy here in south Florida. It’s hard not to get swept up in it. Even people who ordinarily hate basketball are finding themselves wearing LeBron jerseys, googling pictures of the Birdman, staying up late to watch the games with riveted intensity, and enthusiastically talking Heat basketball on Facebook.

There’s a shared sense of palpable excitement in the air. It’s gripping and awesome… even though we all know it’s such a fleeting thing – and even more cynically – that our love for the Heat is entirely dependent on the outcome of game 7. Win, and the adoration continues. Lose, and we quickly move on to caring about whatever the next big thing may be. (Dolphins in ’13??? Nah you’re right probably something else.)

That is a bit of a sad thought, but it says a lot about human nature.

Our local scribe, the (most-of-the-time) great Dan LeBatard, put it nicely the other day on his radio show when he talked about how our love for sports teams is totally conditional. He made this general point, “You make us feel good, we’ll love you in return. Make us feel bad, and we’ll abandon you so fast.”

This is something Miami is famous for (we raise the art of being bandwagon, fair-weather fans to new heights), but let’s be honest your town is like this too for the most part. Like Kent Brockman, most of us are very willing to welcome our new ant overlords if we think that’s how the wind will blow.

How is it then, that we can do wild Jimmy Connors fist-pumps when our team excels, but then not care that much when they stink? Why are most of us such fair-weather fans, and more generally speaking, fair-weather people? Some would say that it’s because we love to win. Everybody loves a winner and wants to be a part of winning things. This is true, but I think it probably has more to do with how gutless, selfish and disloyal we are as human beings.

Our first instinct is to bail when things get tough. In a way, we are all those fans who left early in Game 6, when it seemed the Spurs were going to end the Heat’s season. Of course as soon as Ray Allen hit a miracle 3-pointer to send it to overtime, they started banging on the doors to come back in. We turn from pitchfork mobs to adoring mobs at the drop of a hat.

Let me clarify that I am chief among you. I am the worst kind of wishy-washy, front-running, fair-weather fan. My level of interest and enthusiasm in sports teams is directly related to how they perform. If you make it to the playoffs, I will chest bump strangers and scream at the TV on your behalf. If you are in last place, I’ll probably watch Storage Wars reruns instead of your games.

I wish I was that guy who had the integrity to support a team with equal passion regardless of how good they are. I knew a guy in college who was absolutely passionate about Vanderbilt football. For those who don’t know about Vanderbilt football, that is the equivalent of rooting for antelopes on the Serengeti. Sometimes they escape, but mostly they just get savagely mauled.

It is rare to find people who willingly accept the painful fate of rooting for a perennial loser. Not many have such a remarkable threshold for suffering. I applaud these holy shamans. By in large, we humans are front-running creatures who lack the character, resilience and fortitude to really genuinely love a loser. We are a bandwagon species.

I’d like to say that I will care just as much about the Heat, regardless of how the Finals end. But let’s be honest if we lose, I will jump ship with everyone else and wait for the next big thing. However if we win you better believe I will be out in the streets celebrating with pots and pans.

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