Wednesday, June 19, 2013

It's all about the HEAT . . .

Last night's game wavered between excitement and disgust. The HEAT performed magnificently in the first quarter, then down, down, down in the second and third quarter, running behind, a miserable few points behind, then 10, then just 1 point ahead, and then 5 back again. 

Maybe the HEAT looked defeat in the face when officials brought out yellow tape to mark off the trophy presentation for the Spurs. They were headed to a win, thus ending the 2013 NBA Series Playoff. But then Ray Allen made a superb end-of-fourth-quarter 3-pointer. Swoosh! 

At overtime, I stood in my living room, shouting at the television, just as those thousands attending the game in Miami roared to their feet. With a few miracle plays, a few favorable ref calls, and stunning endurance, the Miami HEAT won the game! The Spurs were upset; they were that close to ending the series. Two days off to recover, and the last game of the series begins again this Thursday night. 

LeBron James is either magnificent, or I'm left wondering what happened. Why is he hesitating? And that's where the disgust comes in, for there's nothing so ugly as watching someone lose confidence. James said, in his post-game interview, “You put it all out there on the court. You give your best.”  And that's OK. 

Part of me knows that watching sports on TV is a little ridiculous. My hubby, Allen, pulled me in. He knows sports, the stats, the people, their histories. First it was football. Now basketball. We rooted for the HEAT all the way through the playoffs until this last series playoff. Allen shouted, "Boom!" every time the Spurs made a basket. That was aggravating since the Spurs were ahead through most of the game. It's a hard choice: both teams are very good. But there's only one LeBron, one Wade, and one Bird Man. 

Last night's game was physical. More than a few players got rattled and hit the floor, on their own volition or shoved by someone from the opposing team. After a strong first quarter, the HEAT seemed to lose their poise; the announcers said the HEAT played with desperation. If they lost, the series was lost. 

But there were moments of grace and beauty. That arc to pop the ball into the basket. Bird Man's grab at the net to close out an incoming ball, unsuccessful as it was, tipped in after his move by the opposition. Wade's fluid moves as he charged forward. LeBron's leadership at times faltered, but the HEAT never gave up. 

By the end of the game and that sudden-death overtime, all their faces were marked by exhaustion. Who had the reserves? Who had the emotional and physical stamina to persevere? The HEAT. 

I'm a fan. 

Of course, I'm partial to Bird Man. He came in late, played the heavy, rebounded a few. He was fouled, but he didn't lose his temper. The outsider, the survivor, the one who will be counted on because he could count on no one else. 

Anyone who has played sports knows someone wants the ball, the run, the goal. And will do anything to achieve that moment of grace and affirmation. That resounding "YES!" that echoes down the years. Last night, the HEAT had the drive, and the Spurs didn't. 

I've got chocolate ice cream in the freezer for half-time, and I'm ready for Thursday night.

LeBron James and The Miami HEAT, Finals 2013 (Source:

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Birdman . . . Birdman . . .

Chris Andersen, Bird Man (Facebook)
I want to write about the Birdman, Chris Andersen, that second string basketball player for the Miami Heat. 

At first I was intrigued by his tattoos. Who wouldn't be? They are beautiful, rich, gorgeous color, fascinating shapes spatter his body -- what can be seen, that is, all the way up to his neck, down both arms, legs, can't see as those basketball shorts come all the way down to his knees.  
And his hair. A Mohawk? And he sports this little wispy soul patch that stays or goes at a whim. 

Then I saw him interviewed. His mellow manner and calm way of speaking made me forget about the tattoos. The guys on the sports talk show (including Charlie Barkley and that big guy, Shaquille O'Neil) were visibly charmed, for they did not know what to think. So at first (as I'm a novice at basketball), I was entranced by this man who would cover himself with tattoos so distracting they become almost a mask, though his face is untouched. He stands out, and yet he is invisible.

Then in game 5 of the playoffs, someone shoved the Birdman. He thought someone else did it and shoved back. A confrontation ensued. The Birdman did not back down. His testosterone was all over the place. In a split second, he was a warrior. He was benched, later fined, and banned from game 6, which the Heat lost.  So I read a little about his background. Chris was early abandoned by his father and grew up rock-scrabble poor in rural Texas. Basketball was his entry to college, but he dropped out to play basketball professionally; he ended up playing for Chinese and Mexican D-teams until he was brought up to play at the A level for two teams, and then to the Miami Heat.

Birdman’s suspension reminds me of my soccer playing days when I was hit in the face with a soccer ball. As someone who wears glasses, I was instantly furious. I knew the other player had thrown the ball at me intentionally. I couldn't calm down. The ref ejected me, and my team had to play a person short. I couldn't even watch. But there is that moment in sports. You know the other person is going for the ball, and you want it. One of you will back down. That person won't be me. When my dear husband said he wasn't the marrying kind, I took that in, but even then, in that moment I knew, well, there's a goal.

The Birdman was back for Game 7 and the Heat won. I'm a fan of the Birdman. I know he has a dark side, but he's not the only one who wears a mask.