That Championship Feeling

Last year I wrote a fictional interview with a Miami Heat Super Fan gently mocking the fan base of the team I root for and the city in which I reside. Last week on assignment covering an event at a local bar where the Miami Heat’s championship trophy was on display truth was stranger than fiction. This is my account of the evening originally published in the New Times.

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There are very few inanimate objects that draw a crowd. The Mona Lisa brings a few people out to Paris and summers at Sequoia National Park attracts onlookers to see The General Sherman Tree, but paintings and trees don’t bring the wide smiles a trophy can. Wednesday night at Whiskey Tango the 2013 Larry O’Brien trophy was on display. The Miami Heat organization brought the golden trophy handed out each year to the NBA Champion for Heat fans of all ages to pose with in pictures.

Von Freeman the director of marketing at the radio station 790 AM explained the night’s origin, “At the radio station we were planning this event tonight where you can win a Refresherator filled with Coors beers when Dan (LeBatard of the station’s Dan LeBatard Show) said why don’t we make the night big and see if we can bring the Heat’s championship trophy. People love it. They’re shocked this is the real trophy, the only thing is you can’t touch it.”

You can’t touch it?

“I don’t know why. It comes down from Pat Riley. Superstition, maybe?”

There was a representative from the Heat organization present. I began to ask her why people couldn’t touch the trophy. “No interviews.” I explained I wasn’t going to ask whether the Heat were going to sign Greg Oden in the off-season or for details about LeBron James’ upcoming wedding, but she stayed mum.

I asked Stu Gotz, co-host of the Dan LeBatard Show, about the rule. “When it was at the radio station I kissed the trophy, I hugged it, I did everything, but sleep with it. But here even I couldn’t touch it.”

The no touch rule didn’t seem to bother the hundred or so people I witnessed get their pictures taken with the trophy. Two friendly security guards kept their eyes out for any shenanigans and a professional photographer took pictures with his camera or with your IPhone if you asked nicely.

Clive Wallace brought his six year old son and four year old daughter clad in Heat paraphernalia and was excited to get their family picture with the trophy on their Facebook page.

This was a wholesome crowd that should be allowed close contact with the prize. To prove the Heat fan’s common decency I started asking around what people would do with the trophy if they had it for a day, so maybe next year when the Heat threepeat the fans could get their picture hugging the trophy. Glenn Gable said, “I’d take the trophy out to the basketball courts on A1A by the Mirimar Hotel.” Jesse Lockhart wearing a Heat jersey would take it to the beach, have dinner at a restaurant with the trophy, “Then I’d fly it out to San Antonio to rub our win in on the Spurs fans.” A little mean spirited perhaps, but sounds like they would keep the trophy clean.

James Ungrady said, “If I had the trophy for a day I’d take it out on my boat.” As long as he brought a life vest for Larry that seemed like a responsible thought.

“I’d take it to Tootsie’s,” said his friend Carlos Duchespe. I could see why the Miami Heat wouldn’t want their trophy to be photographed at a strip club. Maybe next year just Carlos shouldn’t be allowed to touch it.

I sat down with a group of five adults who had their pictures taken with the trophy. Cicely Cumandari-Ruiz said, “If they gave me the trophy I’d take it to the school I work at so all the kids could see it.” Before I could compliment that touching thought her husband Nick Ruiz informed me, “I’d take it in the bathroom with me while I took a dump.”

Are you a Knicks fan or a Celtics fan?

“We’re Heat fans man. If I had the trophy I’d beat off on it.” Explained Nelson Garcia who I asked three times if he really wanted his name attributed to that quote. When I asked isn’t that disrespectful towards your favorite team he assured me, “It’s a sign of love for the Heat.

That’s the last time I question a mandate from Pat Riley. As far as I’m concerned we’re allowing Heat fans to get too close to that trophy. Last thing we need is an outbreak of venereal diseases in the Heat locker room as they defend their title.

Come to think of it they don’t let you touch The Mona Lisa or General Sherman’s Tree either.

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