As the Miami Heat seem to be in the best position to win the 2013 NBA Championship and their second title in as many years, the question remains: Why don't Heat fans (in visible areas at least) show up on time?
It's a complaint as old as this Heat team, it seems.
While they do sell out playoff games and have ranked in the top three in attendance in each of the past three seasons (they were 15th in the league the season before LeBron James and Chris Bosh joined), nobody will call this group among the tops in NBA fanbases.
Just take a look at their most recent playoff game, a closeout game mind you, against the Chicago Bulls on a Wednesday evening. There's the ever-present sight of the free giveaways slung across the backs of seats, waiting for ticket owners to come claim them.
It's a common sight in Miami, and it's been happening for a few years now.
In an attempt to mask the fact that there are so many empty seats at the start of each half, the seats are dressed up in white, usually in the form of a towel to wave around or a shirt shimmied over the back.
Excellent job by the Heat matching the white shirts with the color of the seats so its tougher to notice how many empty seats there are— Evan Roberts (@JoeandEvan) May 11, 2011
Good call on Heat to lay T-Shirts on the seats this time. Harder to tell how empty it is in here.— Tom Haberstroh (@tomhaberstroh) May 15, 2013
That way, when viewed within the context of a "white-out" among the rest of the fans wearing white, it won't look as if there are entire chunks missing out of the crowd.
The only problem is that people notice, and they complain about the de facto representatives of the best basketball team in the NBA.
The huge number of empty good seats in #Miami at the start of Heat games continues to be ridiculous!— InsideHoops.com (@InsideHoops) May 11, 2011
Seeing just about the amount of empty seats at the #Heat game I expected. Looks like a mid season promotional night game.— Richard Camillucci (@RichCami) May 15, 2013
S/O to all those heat fans #emptyseats— Max Vaundry (@mvaundry22) May 16, 2013
It's not just the first half, either. Oftentimes you'll see ticket holders struggle to get back to their seats in time for the start of the second half.
Who knows, maybe the beer line is a bit too long or everybody's going to use the restroom. Or maybe they just don't care that much.
The heat easily have the worst fans in the NBA. Over 4mins into the 2nd half and there still is empty seats.— The Renaissance Man (@PeedyFly) May 16, 2013
Do Heat fans even watch the game when they go to see the Heat play? There is always so many empty seats #FairWeatherFans— Charlie Dunn (@chuckdirty4) May 16, 2013
There's often a complaint that the expensive seats at Staples Center in Los Angeles are there for rich people to buy and be seen amongst the famous people scattered throughout the crowd.
While that's a legitimate gripe that basketball fans have about the Lakers, at least those people are usually in their seats when the game starts.
So what is the deal with Heat fans that sit in the lower bowl?
Obviously there's some of that Los Angeles-style desire to be seen, but why show up so late and why take so long to return to seats before the start of the second half?
Plenty of diehard Heat fans reside in Miami and around the country; that's not the problem. There's a reason they have a loud arena for 36 of the 48 minutes throughout a basketball game. Upper-deck seats are filled and fans are screaming to see this team win.
As far as the lower-bowl coin-droppers are concerned, I'm sure to some extent traffic can be blamed. It's an arena in the middle of a large city—but then again so is nearly every other arena in the NBA.
There's a simple solution to that problem, and it's just to leave your house earlier.
There's got to be something different plaguing your run-of-the-mill Heat fan, whether it be indifference, or just a general acceptance that missing a few minutes isn't going to be a big deal.
The only bit of wisdom that I could offer has nothing to do with a solution; it's just an observation. If one of the greatest teams in the history of the NBA isn't going to get people to show up on time, then nothing will.