Miami Heat fans, any fans, have the right to leave early

Heat fans gather outside the arena to celebrate Miami's Game 6 victory.
(Javier Galeano / Associated Press)

You’ve paid a small fortune to attend a championship sports event with your family. The game is minutes from its conclusion. There is a history of violence outside stadiums across America after championship sporting events. There is a certainty of a mad crush of people, horrific traffic, and other logistical nightmares.

In the interest of ensuring your family’s safety and calm, you walk out of the sports event before it is finished, climb in your car, and listen to the final moments on the radio as you drive unimpeded back to realities of a late night that has already impacted early-morning work and school.

This is wrong? This is embarrassing? You should be ashamed? Of course not. Yet that is the way Miami Heat fans are apparently supposed to feel after being caught on camera walking out of their team’s eventual overtime comeback victory over the San Antonio Spurs in Tuesday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

They were ripped by the media. They were chided by the players. In fact, the Heat’s Chris Bosh actually requested that those fans who left early not bother showing up for tonight’s Game 7.


First, given his shaky history with the Heat, there are no guarantees that the overpaid Bosh himself will show up for Game 7. And second, how dare he?

I know this is going to sound like pandering from a guy who has spent his columnist career watching Los Angeles fans arrive late and leave early, but there is often zero correlation between a fan’s faith in his team and his decision to leave a game early. Fans aren’t giving up on the players, they’re simply giving up on spending any more of their evening with the players when job and family and sleep responsibilities beckon.

Players should be grateful that fans purchase tickets and show up in the first place. Players and media members should also look in the mirror. Because of work responsibilities, both groups leave games long after their conclusion, when the post-game madness on the nearby streets has subsided. If they were forced to leave a game immediately after it ended, here’s guessing many would also be rushing out the door with the early birds.

In Miami on Tuesday -- and also tonight -- there exists the fear of postgame championship violence. Who can blame a fan for trying to outrun it? After a couple of Laker championships, the scene outside the Staples Center was dangerous enough, with roving mobs and fires, that I felt sorry for fans who actually stayed for the entire game and then had to navigate that fear.


Tonight, win or lose, the spectators in Miami should not feel bad about leaving early. It’s not about being a bad fan. Sometimes its about being a smart one.


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