Beyond the Boxscore
Dallas exposed as bandwagon town in NBA Finals: Dirk deserves better thanabsentee father fans
They came, they screamed and they believed. Right through all the droughts. Right through the double-digit deficits.
Right until the last shot when Dirk Nowitzkirose for his signature fadeaway and everyone who wasn't wearing a Miami Heat uniform — and likely, quite a few who were too — expected it to drop.
Only it didn't and those wild and crazy Dallas Mavericks fans — just ask them and they'll tell how wild and crazy and passionate and committed they are — filed into the warm night on the shove of an 88-86 loss. They may no longer be convinced that the Mavericks will win this NBA Finals. (Belief is rather fickle in the Big D). But darn, if they're not positive that they're the best in the world.
And the center of the universe.
"NBA Finals, Super Bowl, World Series, we're still No. 1 man!" Dallas fan Sean Barber screams. This is by far the favorite line of Sunday night and if you just showed up for Game 3, you couldn't helped but be impressed and almost forgive any Charlie Sheen-level of delusional bravado. The first NBA Finals game in Texas since 2007, and only the fourth ever in Dallas, couldn't have been louder. The scene outside of American Airlines Center resembled a state fair.
Dallas fans were into it, as "crazy" as Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle often implores them to be.
It all looked and sounded great. As long as you weren't there in January or February or March or even that first round playoff series against the Portland Trailblazers. You know, back when nobody was all that crazy about, or even very interested in, this team that every Dallasite from Troy Aikman (he's in the second row!) to the blue-chested painted quartet now claims to have always loved and obsessed over the way Jennifer Aniston seems fixated on Brad Pitt.
As way back as April 25th, deep into that first round series with the Blazers, these Mavericks were a pretty easy ticket in Dallas. Borderline embarrassingly easy. Just ask the men who know best (the ticket brokers whose livelihood depends on knowing when a team's fan hot or not).
"Dallas has always been a great bandwagon market," says Pat Ryan, co-owner of The Ticket Experience, a Houston-based ticket broker that does a good share of business in Dallas tickets. "During the regular season, the secondary market on Mavericks tickets was abysmal. You could get into the lower bowl for under face value. Consistently.
"They didn't really take off and become a hot ticket until the (the second round) Lakers series. Dallas is a market that loves to jump on a championship run. There comes a point, where everyone in that town wants to be there, when it looks like there's a championship run developing."
In other words, Dallas is the ultimate bandwagon town. No one who knows the city at all can be surprised by that. After all, the Cowboys built themselves into "America's Team" by adding in fans from other cities with no sense of loyalty whatsoever. Big D's most iconic franchise is built on a bandwagon of hot air.
But you might be surprised by just how fickle Dallas has shown itself to be during this deluge of Dirk. Forget April 25. Mavericks fans didn't buy in as recently as last Thursday.
After Dallas lost Game 1 of the Finals in Miami, ticket prices weren't exactly going through the roof of Bank of America Plaza for the first game in Dallas. Game 3 didn't become a sizzling ticket prize until after the Mavericks pulled off that epic comeback in the last seven minutes of Game 2. If Nowitzki hadn't hit that left-handed, injured-finger layup in Miami, a lot of people would have gotten into Sunday night's game for a lot less money.
"It was a pretty big swing," Ryan says. "During the fourth quarter of Game 2, you could get into the building for Game 3 for about $200. Within an hour and a half of the game ending, it was up to $375 just to get into the building in Dallas. It's probably one of the bigger swings we've seen.
"People in Dallas were definitely waiting to see something."
So much for having faith in your team.
Lacking In Heart & Commitment
Anyone who watched Nowitzki try and carry the Mavericks to victory in the fourth quarter — he's essentially playing one against three in the stardom game of this series — couldn't help but think he deserves better. No, not from his rapidly shrinking teammates (Peja Stojakovic is starting to look as petrified in this series as he did against the Lakers in Game 7 of the 2002 Western Conference Finals).
In his fan base.
Dallas Mavericks fans are as committed as absentee fathers, coming in and out of their team's life as it pleases them. This false, way-too-late, sudden appreciation for Dirk Nowitzki is just one prime example. At least, the New York Yankees fans who went crazy for Alex Rodriguez when he dominated the 2009 postseason to lead the pinstripes to another championship after booing him for years, admitted they were being hypocrites.
Mavericks fans now pretend they loved Nowitzki all along as they lap up all the new T-shirts bearing his likeness (no wonder why the Texas economy is so strong), that they were true believers. Even though most of them screamed that he was soft for most of this decade.
Still, Nowitzki leaves every ounce of his being on Mark Cuban's shiny floor, scores 15 of Dallas' 22 points in the fourth quarter, wrestles with last-second regret. "I thought we had our opportunities," Nowitzki says, holding the microphone, taking the responsibility as usual.
Nowitzki is as real as many of his new "fans" are frauds.
If there's any solace for this bandwagon city, it's that Miami is arguably even worse. Ryan, the ticket broker, actually admires that Dallas at least embraces a good bandwagon. For all the hype of South Beach, you could get a lower bowl ticket to the Finals games in Miami for as low as $200. That's a near $750 ticket for the three games in Dallas.
"Ultimately, LeBron (James) didn't infuse the economy with $500 million dollars," Ryan says. "That's a lot of hype with little substance. Miami is the same sad sports town."
The difference is that most average fans in Miami don't pretend otherwise. They know that their city's history of sports rooting is pretty pathetic. They understand that the Heat are turning to themselves rather than concocting some imaginary rabid fans.
That's why Dwyane Wade is yelling at Chris Bosh to step up even as takes over the game himself. And lo and behold, there is Bosh hitting the eventual game winner in the final minute.
"When those guys are screaming at you," a puffy and poked-in-the-eye, teary Bosh says of Wade and James, "it's all out of love."
Hey, Bosh grew up in Dallas. No one needs to tell him how rare it is to see real love in this town.
Instead, it's see bandwagon ... jump. My best friend from high school moved to "North Texas" several years ago. He didn't mention the Mavericks once in dozens and dozens of conversations since then. Until, Dallas made the NBA Finals and my phone rings.
"You know I always did love the Mavs," he starts.
At that moment, I realize my buddy truly is becoming Dallas worthy.