Dwyane Wade injured his hip last night in the first quarter against Dallas. You talk about mixed emotions. I found it slightly amusing, but at the same time I don’t want there to be any excuses for this Miami Heat team. Either win the thing, or don’t. I don’t want to hear about what could have happened. Look at the Mavericks’ roster. If you can’t beat that collection of guys with Wade a little dinged up, you deserve absolutely nothing. The way the whole thing played out, it looked like Dwyane was trying to set himself up as the injured hero. Hang back in the locker room, work the limp a little bit, and lead the Heat to victory. It almost played out that way, but the Heat played one of their inexplicably bad stretches of basketball in the 4th quarter (again), LeBron couldn’t score, and the Mavericks took control of the series.
Even before Wade was slowed by this hip issue, the excuse mill was cranking out fodder for James and his gang. LeBron is the first player I’ve ever seen who when he has an off game people assume something is emotionally wrong with him. Last year against the Celtics LeBron vanished mysteriously. I wasn’t watching the games, but you had seasoned basketball people looking around saying, “What the hell was that?” Why was he playing this way? Was he hurt? No. It was something deeper. Perhaps Delonte West was “making time,” with the King’s Mother. LeBron was distracted, emotionally hurt, and not mentally capable of carrying the Cavs past Boston. Forget the fact that many athletes put things behind them every day and carry on without anyone noticing, this was a one-time excuse. The Delonte West exception. I mean, how many times can the someone is sleeping with your moms rumor float?
Fast-forward to the lead-up to yesterday’s game and everyone was once again trying to explain off a LeBron performance. Deshawan Stevenson went as far to say that LeBron “checked out,” while the rest of us were left to ponder why LeBron spent game 4’s fourth quarter mingling around the periphery like the kids who work the sweat mops. Stephen A. Smith felt it was the perfect time to drop in a line about LeBron once again dealing with personal issues. The timing is unbelievable, is it not? Of course, Smith’s insinuation was run with, and a couple of hours later the rumor mill had spit out a neat story suggesting Rashard Lewis was in a relationship with LeBron’s long-time girlfriend and the mother to his children. I don’t know if LeBron’s game-five performance (triple double/no 4th quarter) validates this latest tabloid claim or not. The question is, why does the supposed best player in the world keep sending people to the mines to dig up reasons why he’s not dominating big moments like he dominates the small ones.
It must be quite a conundrum for Miami Heat fans. I have to say they are the true reason why I am backing Dallas and actually watching a bit of this series. I didn’t need Sir Charles to tell me this was the worst fan base in sports, and not only is it populated with fair-weather locals, but the Heat are a pure bandwagon team right now. I know one person who is unabashed in their bandwagonism. He jumps from team to team. Duke. The Lakers. The Yankees. He refers to them in possessive terms. For example, “How about my Heat?” You can imagine how annoying this is, but at the same time you have to respect that he thumbs his nose at any traditional view of what being a fan means. I can’t tolerate that, and would never be ever to switch teams so haphazardly, but I will say I am a little jealous of his lack of a sports fan conscience.
I assume he roots for the Heat because he likes LeBron and he assumes they have the best chance to win. The resulting championship (if it happens) will maximize his enjoyment as a fan. Why stick with Cleveland when you know they are going to be terrible and your favorite player has gone elsewhere? It’s an interesting question, and I think people underestimate sometimes how taxing a fan’s loyalty really is. Certainly people are forced to root for players or groups of players they aren’t particularly fond of, simply because of the jersey they wear. Imagine if Kevin Kolb was starting for the Eagles and you had to watch that? You’re sitting there, knowing that Kolb stinks, but you have to talk yourself into him, because he’s playing quarterback for your team.
Wouldn’t it be more exciting to get all Aaron Rodgers-ed up? That’s where the heart gets in the way for most fans, but not those who are truly bandwagon, and if you respect loyalty, I suppose you have to respect a complete lack of it, as well. The Heat were all set up to make these fans look like happy, mindless geniuses once again, but now LeBron, his women, and a hip contusion seem to be getting in the way.