Regardless of the situation, leaving a big game early to beat traffic is one of the deadly sins of sports fandom (unless maybe you're a Dodgers fan). Last night, a few hundred of the thousands of Miami Heat ticket-holders who chose to leave American Airlines Arena during the final minute of the fourth quarter of Game Six of the NBA Finals — when the Heat fought back from a 10-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter, when the lead was changing with every possession, and then as their team went down by 5 with 28 seconds to go — were punished by the sports gods when they tried, desperately, drunkenly, to get back in for the Heat's shocking comeback and overtime win to keep the season alive.
Now, Miami gets a pretty terrible rap as a sports town, and sometimes rightfully so. The Marlins are an embarrassment. The Heat's biggest celebrity fans are known for turning on their team and partying with the enemy after one of the Heat's most embarrassing losses. But, last night, some regular old Miami sports fans lived up to every expectation the world has of them when they started filing out of the arena. LeBron James had willed his team back from the verge of surrendering the Heat's second finals in three years, to the San Antonio Spurs. But now Tony Parker had become a man possessed — a silent bargain with the devil made off-camera, the terms unknown, that saw him sink a devastating three and force a bad shot from LeBron that led to a Tim Duncan block. Parker had played miserably until that point. Things had changed once more. The Spurs were up. The people went out. But the Heat found a way! And somehow, through some kind of weird rebounding miracle, maybe another deal with the devil for twice the price, Ray Allen sunk one of the most beautiful, clutch three pointers the NBA Finals have ever seen. The game went to a wild overtime, where the Heat would come out victorious to force a Game Seven on Thursday. But, hey, there was traffic to beat.
Fans streaming out...I'm gonna throw up— Victor Oquendo (@VictorOquendo) June 19, 2013
Honestly embarrassing. I'm setting up for my live shot outside the arena, just watching fan after fan exit early.— Victor Oquendo (@VictorOquendo) June 19, 2013
So many people have left that I'm honestly embarrassed for this city.— Dan Le Batard Show (@LeBatardShow) June 19, 2013
I'm happy for the 2,000 or so Heat fans who left with 30 seconds left. No traffic!— Dan Wetzel (@DanWetzel) June 19, 2013
Once the game turned around, once fans who split noticed things went to overtime, it got a little ugly outside the arena. Drunken, unruly ticket-holders started begging and pleading with staff to be let back in. ABC Miami reporter Victor Oquendo became a minor celebrity when he began documenting the sad pleas of fairweather Miami fans on Twitter last night. "Now I'm watching horrible, drunk, quitting fans desperately trying to get back in. This is madness," he reported. "Cops finally here. Fans still pounding on the doors begging to be let in." The scene was made for Miami fan schadenfreude. "It was kind of sad," a Heat fan told CBS Sports' Royce Young. "But those who stayed saw one of the greatest games ever." Oquendo, a Miami native, called it "glorious."
I was born and raised in Miami. I used to hate the national perspective against Heat fans but I can't fight it anymore.— Victor Oquendo (@VictorOquendo) June 19, 2013
By the way, a good amount of the people I spoke with after the game, the ones that stayed...were from out of town.— Victor Oquendo (@VictorOquendo) June 19, 2013
So now Miami fans, as well as Lebron and Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, will be under the microscope Thursday night. It's the Heat's third chance to win a championship in as many years. It is perhaps LeBron's last chance to deliver on his multiple-championship promise before the big three gets broken up, before the egos explode, and one of them heads for the door.
Update, 10:23 a.m.: This NBC Miami report with sad Heat fans who left early talking about how it "wasn't their year" — clearly unaware of what was unfolding inside — is too good not to add: