Bankers Life Fieldhouse was covered with "Gold Swagger" t-shirts as I was one of the first 100 people or so into the arena. I had the terrific experience of witnessing Game 4 live in Indiana. And although the Miami Heat lost the game to the Pacers, I'd like to share with you what it was like to sport Heat gear inside a very hostile environment.
In light of the regretful words that Pacers' broadcaster Mark Boyle said about Heat fans, I won't revert to calling anyone a loser or deserving or not deserving of anything. My friend David and I rolled into an arena 90% Pacers fans, 10% Miami. The 10% were all there early ready to watch the likes of Jarvis Varnado, Mike Miller, Rashard Lewis, Joel Anthony, James Jones and Juwan Howard play their 3-on-3 game 70 minutes before the national anthem. NCAA Champion from Louisville Russ Smith was in attendance, although I'm not sure who he was cheering for.
I was sporting my Heat shades compliments of @seeyapr and Hot Hot Hoops, so as I walked by the sideline, both Tony Fiorentino and Eric Reid gave me a fist pound as I told them I was a big fan of them!
Shortly after the Pacers had to scan their crowd with the big screen and beg them to put down their beers and nachos and put their free t-shirt on, the game started and things got a little uglier. I have seen the difference in attendance and attitude at Bankers Life this season and in the past depending on the opponent.
Let's just say people really don't like the Heat. Earlier this year, I was at Bankers Life Fieldhouse for the Pacers and Bucks in the regular season. I didn't hear a swear word, obnoxious chant or hateful things towards the Bucks. Nor did I see many people standing or cheering very much. But when the Heat come, it's a different story.
Forget that the guy in front of me spilled his beer as he was walking down the steps and it splashed on me (who spills their beer?), there were a lot of things that were pretty disturbing. But I'll share with you the best thing that happened first. I sat next to a guy who claimed he was cheering for the Pacers when the game started, and as the game progressed he found himself cheering for the Heat because he remembered that "LeBron was his boy." Is that bandwagon?
Outside of Lance Stephenson's three-pointer at the end of the third quarter, the loudest that the Fieldhouse got was when LeBron James fouled out of the game. It was hateful, loud, and scary. So many of the things that I heard I cannot share with you here. And honestly, I wouldn't repeat. The vulgar language about LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, and oh - Shane Battier. They do not like Shane at all. They hate Chris Andersen, Udonis Haslem and apparently I learned that we hate Mario Chalmers because he was born in Alaska.
When Chris Bosh went down with his ankle injury and stayed on the ground, the crows went semi-silent, like most injuries. But as he stayed down, and then got up, the crowd began to boo him. The ultimate sign of disrespect, booing a player for not being injured more severely. I heard someone say, "Chris Bosh, I hope you tore your ACL!"
The fans spent about 85% of their time cheering against the Heat, and 15% cheering for the Pacers.
Repeatedly there were chants of, "He's a flopper!" about both LeBron and Wade. Yet, a few minutes later the big screen showed Pacer legend Reggie Miller and he received a standing ovation. Do they remember the 18 years that Reggie flopped his way to the free throw line? No, they don't.
Sure, much of this can be found in a lot of NBA arenas, and even inside the AAA. And this behavior doesn't describe everyone. Nor would I think that Pacers fans are the worst thing out there. I had a very nice old couple who sat in front of me who were respectful, dedicated Pacer fans. But, it became very unpleasant to watch a game with fans yelling at the Heat, not because of how they play basketball, but because of how they look or the vulgar made-up slams that you wouldn't say to someone's face.
It was a great game to be at, and it was unfortunate that the Heat lost the game. "Beat the Heat" chants don't win games, nor do drunk fans yelling from 20 rows up.
The Heat will win this series between the lines, starting next with Game 5 in the Heat's house.
What's your experience been like? Have you seen the Heat in a road game? Was it the playoffs? Share and discuss.
Thanks for reading.