Team Dreams: The Absurd Spectacle of the Miami HEAT
Steve Jobs is dead. Picasso is dead. Mario Chalmers is on the Grizzlies. And Miami, the ultraviolet-and-teal enclave of face-eating Florida Men, the Vanderpumps, Khaled, and the generally appalling professional sports teams they all patronize, is not merely hurting right now. It’s teetering on the brink of identity crisis. But perhaps, help is on the way.
Miami sports are at their best when they distract us from the steady corrosiveness of human existence with unadulterated silliness and chaos. But I have been waiting for some dumb shit to happen in Miami for three weeks. Nobody wants to weigh in on employment disputes and ethical dilemmas, in Miami. Tragedy and grief are extremely off-brand here. Come on. Miami is where late-career Ichiro and post-exile Barry Bonds — a wizard and a goat, respectively — take up sinecures; where “if you build it, they will come” is about a strip club in left field. Miami is where a basketball franchise compensates for its grammatically singular mascot by rendering it all-caps in press releases. It’s supposed to be fun and stupid and mostly bizarre, and usually it is. We need it to be.
See, what the recent spate of awful shit happening in Miami has done, besides make everyone everywhere really sad, is reinforce the urgency of the city’s penchant for absurdity and spectacle. Chris Bosh was a very good HEAT for two reasons: the PA announcer said his name with terrific dalé, and he ran funny. Absurdity and spectacle. Gone now, because Chris Bosh has been banned for life from the NBA.
As a result, this year, the HEAT, the official basketball team of The Shocker, are going to be BORING. The starting lineup will be bookended by cash-flush D-Leaguers playing goal-oriented Spoelstraball. Udonis Haslem, easily the funniest dude on the team, will brood silently, knowing that his mug is better used in Khaled videos than on the Miami pine. Drake will be granted locker room privileges. So will Shane Battier and Erick Dampier.
Even the HEAT’s sinistral novelty, the all-left-handed lineup, doesn’t hit like it did last year. To even see this gimmick you will have to suffer through Goran Dragic (no longer even the most compelling dragon in the NBA), Justise Winslow (it’s politically correct to like Winslow, but if you are really into defense then you are for teeth), Tyler Johnson (actually legit), Josh McRoberts (treacly) and Beno Udrih (please stop) all playing at the same time. It will not be enjoyable for the same reason gazing into the eyes of the basilisk (the mythical one, not Chris Bosh) is not enjoyable. If you watch this Death Lineup in the mirror, it will look like the also-boring, analog Miami HEAT. It will still not be enjoyable, and you will at worst turn into stone.
Enter Dion Waiters, gag reel consultant, stellar discourse maker and key HEAT acquisition. Waiters arrives in MIAMI a shamed, forgotten man, a loner who was just starting to make friends and prove his worth when the flight of Kevin Durant made jetsam of the Thunder’s constituent parts. Waiters opted out of a guaranteed six million and wound up with three, making him the only free agent unable to capitalize on the billions of dollars slathered on basketball players who were between jobs this summer. (Festus Ezeli, who also fucked up, got twice as much.) Man, it sucks to be poor. But imagine being poor and also Dion Waiters.
You may think that Waiters was brought in as cold water for Hassan Whiteside’s Andrew Bynum fever dream. And there is truth to the idea that Whiteside, motivated by an endless supply of post touches, will shred the league next season, although that should be heartily qualified with another truth, which is that the HEAT will not win more than half their games. But the real reason Waiters was signed by Pat Riley was in hopes that Bosh would retire quietly upon hearing the news and subsequently consulting a doctor — the coumadin won’t jive with digoxin, come on now — thus averting a prolonged labor imbroglio surrounding Bosh’s desire to return to action this season. The chips didn’t end up falling that way for Riley. They did for us, though, because now Waiters Island is where it belongs, at home alongside the Florida Keys.
No, Dion will not be able to prevent the HEAT from being boring this year. But he can at least keep them from being serious. The laffs he is sure to inspire — the Shaqtin’ slapstick, sure, but also the deep-belly chortling that comes when we recognize ourselves in the joke (I see a man without a sense of humor or an elementary grasp of sentence construction, for example) — are important now, damn near vital, if only because of the comedy’s peculiar, peculiarly levity-starved locus, Miami. Still: not necessarily important enough to watch.
In conclusion: the Miami HEAT will be boring, but not as boring as the Orlando Magic. (Title case — sad!)