It was like nobody told the Heat fans it was an away game.
American Airlines Arena hosted a "road rally" in the stands Tuesday night to watch the live broadcast of game 4 of the NBA Finals, and that place was full. Say what you will about Miami fans, but more than 16,000 of them showed up to watch their team play on televisions that weren't very visible in seats that weren't very comfortable, presumably because it's more acceptable to drink beer and scream German insults in a coliseum than it is to do that in your duplex above an elderly woman with sleep apnea. Whatever the reason, they brought a startling amount of energy for the Heat's eventual 86-83 loss to the Dallas Mavericks.
They sat in the aisles and up in the nose-bleeds; they booed the refs, who couldn't hear them, and they booed the Mavericks, who also couldn't hear them. They cheered for everything else, including a giant french fry mascot and Emilio Estefan playing the cowbell. If only LeBron could have heard it.
But long before anyone was mad at floppy old number 6, the fans had settled into some kind of odd communal delusion -- they were in the AA Arena, and there was a Heat game, so they were all going to act like the game was where they were. OK. That sounds nice.
It was strange to see so many people waving their arms to distract a man shooting foul shots 1,300 miles away, but what else was there to do? And the fans didn't seem the least bit bothered by the fact that the court was populated by, instead of giant men in uniforms, some women in very small shorts and a dude in a banana costume. When the Heat needed a stop, fans started the "de-fense" chant, and when the announcer said to "stand up and make some noise," by god, they stood up and made some.
A young fan loses his crap over D-Wade playing basketball on a big, far-away television.
It was in many ways the opposite of the Heat's food truck rally that was held outside of the arena May 26 -- there were fans out that night, sure, but most weren't paying any attention to the game, and those who were couldn't see past the palm trees and large gentlemen smoking things. There was cheering, but only when it was painfully obvious that it was time to clap.
It helped, of course, that there were strobe lights and T-shirt tosses and some goofball calling himself "RUN DLC" on Tuesday, but that arena was full until the last whistle. The fans jeered when Dirk Nowitzki missed his first free throw since, like, 1998, and when Dwyane Wade nailed that alley-oop at the end of the third quarter the banana guy charged the court with the Heat dancers in tow.
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And fans went nuts when Wade was fouled with less than 30 seconds left in the game -- the team was down by two, and the man who already brought Miami a championship was on the line. The crowd had just finished chanting "MVP" when he missed the second free throw and sucked the life out of that place like a happiness catheter. Those poor folks waddled out of the arena a minute later looking like broken whoopie cushions wearing baggy basketball uniforms.
But hey, look on the bright side -- this guarantees we'll get to do all this again with the Heat on the floor in Miami. Maybe they'll bring the banana guy.