I promised myself I wouldn’t make the same mistake as last year. I was not going to miss the Miami Heat parade again.
That I would prepare this time for the controlled insanity on Biscayne Boulevard that is the Miami Heat championship parade. I would be ready with a fully charged phone, enough pregame punch to make the beating sun less unforgiving and the experience even more enhanced, and a GPS that would get me to the Metrorail’s first stop at Palmetto.
Even though I live in North Broward, roughly 25 miles away from the American Airlines Arena, leaving any time later than 9am might as well have made the trip useless. Factor in traffic that would be shuffling along 500,000 Heat fans and a Metrorail that was only going to get worse before it got better, leaving more than two hours in advance before the parade started should have been ample enough time to pregame and allow it to settle.
No, I did not pregame and drive. I planned ahead and found a friend that was willing to chauffeur my significant other and I to the train that would take us near the parade. I certainly was not the only participant in this madness to pour a clear liquid in a water bottle and put on the charade that I was innocently swigging water and grimacing.
I anticipated traffic. I did not anticipate missing the first few Metrorail stops and having to board a train in Northside, only after navigating through sidestreets and neighborhoods that would leave most other sheltered 22-year-olds in the fetal position.
After giving $5 to a gold-toothed, dread-headed attendant to park on a lawn–the neighborhood I parked in was full of hustlers. I was fortunate enough to be directed by one of the home-owners/parking attendants who was not charging up to $20 to park on a crowded lawn–myself and at least 50 other late-arriving fans packed into a claustrophobic’s nightmare.
Here was my view from ahead:
And here it is from behind:
You had no choice but to get really comfortable with those who were next to you, uncomfortably fidgeting at the movement of anyone who was not fortunate to find a seat.
Imagine a submarine that’s roughly 30 feet long and five feet wide. Now imagine shoving about 100 ravenous, late-arriving fans into said submarine. I give my respect to the guy who attempted to start a “Let’s go Heat” chant, but oxygen was low and the only way we received any was when the doors opened at the next stop.
A Seven Nation Army chant was bounced around between myself and my friend–my significant other was out of my sight at this point. I considered her a goner–but it was ultimately decided that would get us thrown off a moving train.
Of course, those stops of gasping for air at the nearest open door also represented another five people braving confined areas and contorting their body into a Tetris piece to fit. You could only feel for the 100 sweat-soaked, wide-eyed Heat fans that were forced to wait for another train.
By the time we get off the train, this was after five stops in between Northside and the Government Center, it’s already past 11am. I’m late again. I prepared and left nearly three-and-a-half hours early and I still ended up late.
I honestly didn’t expect much from this parade in terms of contact with any players. I expected some sights, from the players and eccentric fans, but I expected to be hidden in a grove of red, white and black screaming, sweating, inebriated bodies.
This was what Biscayne Boulevard looked like:
Photo courtesy of SBnation.com
This was my view as I got off the train:
It was a desolate street, and the same basketball gods that allowed Ray Allen’s shot to fall in the final seconds shined down upon me as the parade decided to turn down this sparsely-populated road that was composed of more homeless than fans, who were busy fighting for position on Biscayne to stare at a street that was empty for 75 percent of the parade.
I would have taken more pictures of the events that would transpire, but I was starstruck. It was as perfect of timing as you could imagine. Seriously. The moment I turn this corner is the exact same moment this cavalcade of double-decker buses, exotic cars and flatbed trucks slowly churns towards me.
It was so sparsely populated on this street that my catcalls to the Heat brass could be heard.
I was ignored by Pat Riley and Alonzo Mourning. Rough start. But I received a peace sign from Joel Anthony, possibly because I’m one of the few fans of this team to not only be aware of what he looks like but also willing to embarrass themselves in order to get acknowledgement from an oft-used center.
Remember that clear liquid from earlier? There’s a reason why that played a role.
Mike Miller gave us a smile and a nod when we let a “Let it Fly” fly and Erik Spoelstra gave us his usual strained look. I somehow missed Birdman, failing to see him in the same bus as Miller.
Near the tail-end of the ceremony was a bus that I immediately saw had Juwan Howard in it. Don’t ask how, I just noticed he was in it from far away. It wasn’t until a few seconds after that I happened to notice LeBron James was perched in the center between Howard and someone I could not make out, or care to make out.
Not too many people around? Liquid confidence? Go-time.
After a few compliments, it appeared my profession of admiration and appreciate to LeBron was going to go unnoticed. However, because so much was working in our favor that day, James stared at me through his sunglasses, nodded and smiled.
Then LeBron backflipped off the bus and invited us over to his house for shawarma and croquet. We listened to Prince and Savannah made us all pancakes.
Alright, that didn’t happen. But I could totally see it in LeBron’s eyes (sunglasses?) that he wanted to invite us over if only he didn’t have the obligation of sitting through a parade and hanging out with his teammates while being lavished in love from half-a-million admirers.
The rest of the parade was a blur. Our party quelled our hunger/munchies with Pizza Rustica and the rest of the day was spent aimlessly walking the crowded, littered streets of Biscayne.