Supporters of the Miami Heat will never be confused with some of the great and loyal fan bases in American pro sports.
If you need further proof of that statement, look no further than Tuesday night, when their "beloved" Heat trailed the San Antonio Spurs in the closing seconds of regulation in Game 6. A San Antonio win would give the Spurs their fifth NBA title and a chance to celebrate on Miami's home floor.
With time running out, Heat fans bolted for the exits; too clueless to consider their team could come back and too disrespectful to watch the worthy Spurs win another title.
The problem is, the Heat tied the game on Ray Allen's corner three-pointer with just over five seconds to play. The game went to overtime, and Miami prevailed 103-100 to force a deciding Game 7.
Miami fans tried to barge their win back into American Airlines Arena to no avail -- the team has a strict no re-entry policy.
Check out some of the classic interviews with Heat "fans".
In hindsight, the question itself probably would've been lampooned by the likes of a Coach Popovich.
Luckily, I was interviewing an Arizona Cardinals rookie. At the same time, why exactly would I wonder if "this atmosphere fazes you?" …when let's just say that a Marlins crowd doesn't exactly, uh, measure up to the fervor of SEC football.
"Nah, it doesn't faze me at all, but…" Tyrann Mathieu paused before adding, "I was kind of nervous."
Why? Simple. Mathieu was out of his element. Not in a stadium, but on the mound. The former Heisman Trophy finalist threw out the first pitch before the D-backs' game against the Miami Marlins Tuesday.
"Just relax. Just go out there and throw the ball the way you know how to throw the ball," Mathieu quoted Josh Collmenter (#FerrisWheel) as telling him during a pregame throwing session. "He said that I have a pretty good arm, so that gave me some confidence going out there."
And, make no mistake, as a former high school baseball player, The Badger (as Patrick Peterson called him after the final minicamp practice) can throw.
This wasn't your typical celebrity first pitch that resembled a basketball bounce pass or a golfer chili-dipping. No smart-aleck intoned "jusssst a bit outside."
In fact, when I asked Mathieu how confident he was on the mound, he responded: "I was probably a nine (out of ten). I was extremely confident. It was just exciting to get out there and actually be on a big league stage."
True that. Due to suspensions, Mathieu hasn't been between the white lines for a real game of any sort in nearly two years.
So, if you're a Cardinals fan, you're hoping to hear those sound bites over and over.
"It was just exciting to get out there," Mathieu might say after his first training camp practice.
"I was extremely confident," after his first preseason game in Green Bay.
"I was probably a nine (out of ten)," after the season opener in St. Louis.
If we're talking football game plans, then Mathieu wants his first pitch to foreshadow his first year in the NFL. Right down to the skeptics.
"Doubters? Yeah," Mathieu responded when I asked him if his teammates questioned his arm. "I'm like, man, I'm a competitor. I'm going to get the ball across the plate. It's not going to fall short. A few of ‘em doubted me, but I made ‘em believers."
Keep throwing strikes. And Mathieu will keep making believers.
In return, Arizona will keep embracing the former LSU star. In fact, is the Valley starting to feel like home?
"Definitely," Mathieu said. "Just to get the opportunity is extremely humbling. I'm definitely grateful for the opportunity."
The fourth quarter James displayed is exactly why this human being could become the greatest player of all-time. The fact we had to wait through 23 quarters of the NBA Finals to see it is exactly why he isn't the greatest player of all-time.
The Heat dominated the Spurs during times when Bosh/Wade were on the bench. San Antonio controlled the game while Bosh/Wade played. Hard to call them the Big 3 just because both played well in the OT.
I realize you're a very smart man. I realize you know more about basketball than I do. I also realize Tony Parker didn't play a good game. Those three facts notwithstanding, may I ask why you trusted Manu Ginobili over Parker at the end of the game?
MVPs end losing streaks with walk-off home runs. Five hits against a pitcher in his first start and one of the weakest bullpens in baseball is pathetic. Give Delgado and Goldschmidt a ton of credit but the offensive problems are real.
How can the New England Patriots be the same potent offense they were last year? Changes have come to Bill Belichick's team and the questions hang in the air like musket smoke.
Wes Welker was allowed to walk away and he signed a contract with the Broncos. Welker has been Tom Brady's security blanket, running short an intermediate routes, moving chains, scoring touchdowns. He caught 118 passes from Brady last year for almost 1,400 yards and scored six touchdowns. The Patriots believe Danny Amendola will fill the void left by Welker but that's as sure as the Continental Army's resolve at Valley Forge.
Rob Gronkowski is literally the biggest question mark of all. Back surgery is nothing to be toyed with, especially when you're a stud tight-end that needs to hold up at the point of attack. And he caught 55 balls for almost 800 yards and was Brady's favorite target in the red zone, scoring 11 touchdowns.
Gronk is recovering from his sixth surgery in the last 18 months. Jason La Canfora reported that: "It has become pretty obvious he won't be cleared for contact for virtually all of training camp, and spending a considerable amount of time on the PUP list could be ahead as well, depending on the success of the surgery and how Gronkowski's body responds."
Missing so much time and being productive when you come back is almost impossible. The Patriots might have half their season over before Gronkowski feels like himself.
Finally, Aaron Hernandez, the Patriots all-world tight end and matchup nightmare, is a person of interest in a homicide that involves a vehicle he rented, the body of a man that was an associate of his, that was found less than a mile from his house, and police say he's not cooperating. Who knows where this will end but how Hernandez is disaffected by this it seems is far-fetched.
The Patriots have lost a ton of production, have health issues, and legal issues that may derail their hopes of winning a Super Bowl in 2013. Even the great Bill Belichick, a coach I have the utmost respect for, will have a hard time getting this team into the postseason with all that has transpired this offseason.
The most amazing thing to me about the Diamondbacks being in first place is that they are doing it with just one of their starting pitchers having a winning record. I wouldn't be surprised if they are the the first team to hold that distinction this far into a season.
Patrick Corbin is 9-0 and the Diamondbacks have won every one of his starts except one. The rest of the starters are a combined 12-22.
Ian Kennedy is 3-4, Trevor Cahill is 3-8, Brandon McCarthy is 2-4 and Wade Miley is 4-6.
How a team can be in first place with four of their starters having losing records is beyond me. Yes, the Diamondbacks are good in one-run games and extra innings. But still, the numbers are mind-boggling. Take the other two division leaders in the National League. The Atlanta Braves have three of their starters with a winning record.
Mike Minor is 8-2, Julio Teheran is 5-3 and Paul Maholm is 7-5.
And in St. Louis none of their five main starters (the pitchers who have accumulated the most starts) have a losing record.
Shelby Miller is 8-4, Adam Wainwright is 10-3, Lance Lynn is 9-1, Jaime Garcia, who is out for the season, is 5-2 and Jake Westbrook is 2-2.
Other factors play a key role in winning a division -- mainly offense, defense and having a good bullpen. But Arizona has had a shaky bullpen most of the year and several of their key offensive players -- like Miguel Montero, Cody Ross, Martin Prado and Jason Kubel -- aren't producing.
Throw in the injuries to Aaron Hill, Daniel Hudson, Eric Chavez and Adam Eaton, and it's hard to fathom that Arizona is atop the National League West. Especially with the starting pitching struggling outside of Corbin.
October 7 was the final day of the Arizona Diamondbacks' 2011 season. On that day, when the team was eliminated from the playoffs by the Milwaukee Brewers by a score of 3-2 in 10 innings, its lineup looked like this:
Willie Bloomquist, SS
Aaron Hill, 2B
Justin Upton, RF
Miguel Montero, C
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Chris Young, CF
Ryan Roberts, 3B
Gerardo Parra, LF
That lineup featured a resurgent Hill, budding stars in Montero, Parra and Goldschmidt, and an MVP candidate in Upton. Sure, it was not elite, as there was no way Roberts should ever be a starter on a playoff team and Bloomquist was not an ideal shortstop. However, it was a good group and it had a future.
Things were only supposed to get better.
Monday, as the D-backs fell to the Miami Marlins by a score of 3-2 at Chase Field, their lineup looked like this:
Gerardo Parra, CF
Willie Bloomquist, 2B
Paul Goldschmidt, 1B
Miguel Montero, C
Cody Ross, RF
Jason Kubel, LF
Martin Prado, 3B
Didi Gregorius, SS
Parra is now an established everyday player, Goldschmidt is a star, Montero is a good player who has been in a funk, and Gregorius appears to have a bright future in the league. Outside of them, though, there seem to veteran players on bad contracts. As for the future? Yeah, about that…
Now, one bad game does not a bad lineup make. However, it should be apparent to anyone who has watched the 2013 Diamondbacks that outside of Goldschmidt and Parra, they have very little in the way of offensive production.
So, what happened to the once-promising D-backs' lineup?
A combination of injuries and Kevin Towers, mostly.
Since the loss to the Brewers roughly two years ago, the D-backs have traded Upton and Young, added Kubel and Ross via free agency, and acquired Gregorius and Prado via separate deals. In between were trades for pitchers (some worked out, others didn't), along with moves to acquire lesser-known position players who didn't quite work out. It happens.
To expect a general manager to win every trade would simply be unfair. And really, if you go through Towers' track record in the Valley, he's made some excellent deals. But since the 2011 season, when the D-backs had a good team along with a much-envied farm system, Towers has had his share of struggles.
Outside of the three-team trade that netted the team Gregorius for pitcher Trevor Bauer and the contract extensions signed by Goldschmidt and Hill, very little has seemed to work out for the GM.
Neither the Kubel nor Ross signings have really worked out, and the Upton for Prado trade looks like a pretty solid bust at the moment. Granted, Prado has been a better player than this throughout his career, but his tenure in Arizona has resulted in a WAR (Wins Above Replacement) of -0.5, which means the team would be better off with someone -- anyone -- else in the lineup.
And on the pitching side of things, the Trevor Cahill trade appears to be a wash, at best, and the organization has shipped out quality relievers Craig Breslow, Matt Albers and Bryan Shaw over the last year or so.
Again, no general manager is perfect, and to expect Towers to be is simply unreasonable. You win some and you lose some, and all you can do is hope the wins are more good than the losses are bad.
The disappointing part of Towers' misfires, though, is that most of them didn't have to happen.
No one forced him into signing Kubel and Ross to expensive deals, especially when the team's outfield was already set. He was not mandated to unload prospect Jarrod Parker in exchange for Cahill, especially when it meant parting with reliever Ryan Cook, too. And there's little need to rehash what happened with Upton, but suffice to say a deal only became necessary because Towers and the D-backs made it so.
Of course, even with all of that said, the D-backs are not in terrible shape. The farm system is hardly in dire straits, and the big league club is in contention to win the NL West.
And who knows, perhaps the return of a Silver Slugger at second base along with the addition of a prototypical leadoff hitter may be just what this team needs. After all, a little good health could easily go a long way for the team's chances.
And it is a time like this where we must remember just how far the Diamondbacks have come in such a short period of time. Just last season they lost 97 games, and now we're upset they lost in Game 5, on the road, in the NLDS?
Shows just how far the Diamondbacks as a team - and we, as fans - have come. But the key, especially right now, is to think of not where the team has come from, but instead where they are going.
Yeah, about that.
Truth is, you just can't predict what will happen with a team, no matter how certain their future may appear. There are no guarantees in sports or life, and because of that there will always be an exciting level of uncertainty in anything that goes on.
However, there are things one can do to increase the odds of certain outcomes coming to fruition, and as far as the D-backs are concerned, they've done a pretty good job of lessening theirs.
Apparently getting set battle on the baseball diamond isn't enough for the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers, who will be squaring off in the Big Apple for the first time since the 1981 World Series.
So, the teams have taken to Twitter to duke it out, and it appears the Bronx Bombers have the upper hand. Then again, they started it.
With a 9-0 pitcher on the mound, a possible MVP candidate on first and a potential Rookie of the Year at shortstop, there were fewer than 20,000 fans at the game against Miami. Only Astros and Indians fans were worse. Out of all the teams that are in first or second in action Monday night, Arizona drew the fewest fans...by 15,000.
BLACKHAWKS POWER PLAY:
0 for their last 18. As talented as they are, Chicago needs to shoot the puck and fight for rebounds. Quit trying to be so pretty.
Every major it's the same thing. Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, he dominates the coverage. After Saturday, it's then realized he won't win so they start talking about the next major. When will the national media break the trend and start explaining why he won't win on Thursday? No one on the course is intimidated by Tiger anymore and he's not as confident.
The conditioning test is brilliant. After pushing the players through a tough workout, the Suns put prospective draft picks through a grueling test of stamina. What they really want to see is whether or not you feel entitled or above the need to do the test. If a player thinks they're too good for the test at 19-22 years old with no money, you have a window to their soul on how well they will listen to a coach after they've signed their contract.
2013-14 will be very tough. I don't think the talent is there to win 30 games. I'm also not concerned. This time the pain will lead to pleasure.