Last night, the Miami Heat ended the Eastern Conference Finals with a 19-4 run in under four minutes to beat the Chicago Bulls in five games. If you were fortunate or unfortunate enough — I haven't decided which it is for me — to have watched the entire game, then you would have witnessed equal parts masterful comeback and epic collapse. It felt not quite like a train wreck but like a beautiful performance of something that was wholly revolting. Jeffrey Dahmer on ice.
Forgive the exaggeration, but even 18 hours after the buzzer, I'm still recovering. There is so much good to say about this game, but it is terribly hard to admit to it all. It may well have been the most astonishing comeback in NBA playoff history. The Heat were — have been, throughout the playoffs — what we were so afraid they would be all season long, and it shouldn't come as a surprise.
None of it should. But still, the way that they clinched the East last night was so frighteningly sudden and authoritative, it felt like a coup. The team that the vast majority of America wants to see fail became the team that couldn't. When Rose missed his second free throw (towel toss and all) I looked across the room at a friend who knows very little about the NBA and actually said to him, "I need for you to know how awful that was." He didn't know.
I can't think of another instance, maybe in any sport, in which a country has been united against a certain group of men playing a certain sport. As much as a Sox-Yankees of Celtics-Lakers game might feel like a one-sided affair for, say, a Boston fan, it's really not. Those teams have their fan bases, and the remainder of the audience could not really give a shit.
The Dallas-Miami series is a different animal entirely. Even neutral parties — like my friend — have a faint sense of the fact that they're not supposed to root for number 6 on the Miami team, and that shallow reasoning is enough to make it a legitimate Us vs. Them. And even those who know that rooting against a team for being rational adults who want to succeed is, well, irrational, are still happy to quietly occupy the Us side. The ranks of Us swell as They continue to win.
Beyond that, the final series we're now treated to is begrudgingly satisfying for two reasons: it's simply going to be great, and They might still lose.