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Miami Heat has become the team we love to hate

The hated Heat of Dwyane Wade, left, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

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The hated Heat of Dwyane Wade, left, Chris Bosh and LeBron James.

To sum up, you hate them because they stacked the deck. You hate them because they started to swagger before they started to win. You hate them because of their sheer arrogance.

Ah, just admit it.

Most of all, you hate the Miami Heat because it's fun.

Especially now.

As Heat Hate goes, this is a good day, isn't it? Miami may lose these NBA Finals, and LeBron James has turned into the Incredible Shrinking Man, and your new favorite team — the Dallas … um … wait, you'll remember it … Mavericks, that's right — have the momentum.

And furthermore, whee.

When it comes to sports, man, do we love to hate. Give us a team to detest, give us a player to deride, and sports becomes more entertaining. Give us a blood-boiling, lip-curling bunch such as the Heat and we'll not only watch, we'll threaten to throw the remote control at them.

The truth of it is this: In drama, the villain is usually a lot more interesting than the good guy. The comic books figured that a long time ago. So did professional wrestling.

Give us a bad guy, and we turn a sporting event into a morality play. Give us a bad guy, and we have a reason to tune in. Give us the teams we love, or give us one we can hate.

I know, I know. It's an ugly word, hate. But not in a sports contest. This isn't real life, and it isn't real hate. Besides, people ought to save their hatred for the arena. And, of course, for traffic.

None of this is new, of course. As long as fans have loved one team, they have hated another. Every now and then, there is a team that seems to annoy every other set of fans but its own.

Let's see. Teams are hated because they are too successful, or too elitist, or too scandalous to embrace. They are hated because they are too arrogant, or because they are overhyped, or because they are overexposed. Blame scandal. Blame egos. If you're honest, you can also blame jealousy.

Here's the kicker, though. Most of the time, it turns out, sports are better for them.

Remember the old University of Miami football team? Those Hurricanes invented swagger, and they perfected trash talk.

They played football like a trail herd riding into town. They were bullies as much as ballplayers, and in opposing stadiums, they were usually treated as Huns who were there to pillage the local village. There was never a stronger taste in college football than the U.

And you know what? The players loved it. No one ever embraced being disliked the way the Hurricanes did, managing to dislike their critics right back. UM didn't want to be admired. It didn't want to be beloved. Most of all, it didn't want to be ignored.

That's the way it is for some teams. Books have been written on the proper procedure with which to hate the New York Yankees, the rich kids on the block. Too much money. Too much success. Too much Alex Rodriguez.

Have you ever seen a crowd react to the Duke Blue Devils? Now, Duke has had terrific players and terrific kids over the years, and it has had remarkable results. Still, there is a blue-blood atmosphere to the program, and it seems to drive fans nuts.

And on it goes, to the old Bad Boys of the Detroit Pistons to the Broad Street Bullies of the Philadelphia Flyers to Jimmy Johnson's Dallas Cowboys to Al Davis' old Oakland Raiders (back when they were hateable instead of horrible).

Then, of course, there was the Soviet Olympic team. The world may be better off, but the Olympics haven't quite been as much fun since the Iron Curtain fell.

And now there is the Heat, the self-assured, self-assembled gaggle of rock stars. Collectively, they seem to drive a lot of people crazy. There was LeBron's decision, the dumbest show on TV since Keeping Up With the Kardashians. There was the premature celebration in the middle of a game won by Dallas. And so on.

Even with all of that, I'm not sure the Heat has done enough to deserve all its scorn. James is hardly the first free agent to bolt. Where was all of this scorn when, say, Cliff Lee left Texas in the offseason?

Nevertheless, there is something about the Heat that makes you enjoy as it annoys. Right now, there seems to be a lot of five-day Dallas fans who cannot spell "Dirk'' let alone "Nowitzki.''

The result is the NBA Finals are immeasurably more interesting. People are tuned in. People are emotionally invested.

So keep a bad thought. Maybe LeBron will miss a few more jumpers. Maybe Chris Bosh will get pushed around.

As of tonight, you get to hate the Heat once more.

Don't you just love that?

NBA Finals

Mavericks 2, Heat 2

Game 1: Heat 92, Mavericks 84

Game 2: Mavericks 95, Heat 93

Game 3: Heat 88, Mavericks 86

Game 4: Mavericks 86, Heat 83

Tonight: at Dallas, 9, Ch. 28

Sunday: at Miami, 8, Ch. 28

Tuesday: at Miami, 9, Ch. 28 *

* If necessary

Needling LeBron

Mavs' DeShawn Stevenson says the Heat star "checked out." 3C

Miami Heat has become the team we love to hate 06/08/11 [Last modified: Thursday, June 9, 2011 11:21am]

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