As sports fans, we have a tendency to put an extreme emphasis on wins and losses. It's understandable, since that's how the teams and players we follow measure their own success, but when you get right down to it, we're not PART of the team. To them, sports is their job, and they need those wins to serve as a reflection of all their hard work. But to the fan, sports are intended to be entertainment, and in theory it should be possible to be successfully entertained whether your team wins or loses.
I may not have been thinking about that as I was walking out of the arean follow the Miami Heat's stunning Game 2 collapse against the Dallas Mavericks -- and though I put the Heat collapse first there, the Mavs really do deserve the bulk of the credit for an amazing comeback -- but the thought hit me as my friend and I were driving back to his house. A lot of how I end up defining my Game 2 experience in the long run will come down to whether or not the Heat rebound to win the series, but the reality of the situation is that I got to see an incredibly entertaining basketball game, and a pretty historic one too, even though in the end the outcome was not what I'd been hoping for.
Now, I'll be honest, when the Heat were up 15, I pretty much mentally booked the win. But I also took note of the clock, realizing there was plenty of time left in the fourth quarter for Dallas to at least make things interesting. When the score got to 88-81, I said to my friend, "if Miami can just get one basket, they can stop this thing." But they never did. The Heat's next field goal came after they'd already given up the lead to Dallas. 24 seconds of game time later, we all shuffled out of the arena, mostly angry, but even at that point in the game, there was part of my brain that said "ya know, that was a pretty awesome game to have seen in person."
It helps that at my core, I'm just a basketball fan, not specifically a Heat fan. When I was a child, I latched on to the Atlanta Hawks, mostly because their colors were cool (kids who don't live in pro sports cities choose their favorite teams for some of the dumbest reasons, and I was no exception). However, when they traded Dominique Wilkins, they were dead to me, and I became an NBA nomad. I loved Jordan during his prime, but I never really felt like a Bulls fan. I latched on to the Knicks in '94, mostly in support of a friend who was a die-hard Knicks fan, I loved Shaq in both his Magic and Laker incarnations, and when LeBron James entered the league, I hitched my fandom to his star.
There were times in his first seven years that I felt like a Cavs fan, but really in my heart, I knew I was a LeBron fan, and the same goes for my connection to the Heat. Do I want Miami to win when I watch them play? Absolutely. But that's simply a byproduct of wanting LeBron to win. However, because of my detachment from team success, I also find myself often just wanting to see good basketball. And, given what had happened to me in the 2007 Finals, I was pretty happy just to see basketball period on Thursday night.
Even with the loss in the game, the trip itself wasn't a total loss. First of all, I got to see great NBA basketball, which is something I can't easily do here in Connecticut, and with the lockout pending, something I may not be able to do anywhere for awhile after this series ends. Secondly, on Friday, David and I went to the Hard Rock Casino and played some blackjack at what turned out to be a really good table. David won his first 8 hands and I won 11 of my first 13. At one point, I was up $375 on my original $100, playing at a $10 table. I ended up walking away up $250, which more than covers my game ticket. So in the ledger of life, I paid $400 to fly to Miami to see an amazing NBA Finals game at no cost to me.
No matter what the scoreboard in American Airlines Arena said, I think that's a win.