Your Team Hasn’t A Chance

Oh, Danny Boy, the hype, the hype is calling you.

You’re not actually drinking that Kool-Aid, are you? The red, gooey stuff that says your Miami Heat, barely a playoff team last year, is now suddenly championship material?

Hey. Dan. I know it’s nice to live by the ocean, but don’t swallow the seawater. It makes you delirious.

Look at my arms. See how far apart they are? That’s the distance between the Pistons and New Jersey. Now look at my arms. See how far apart they are? That’s the distance between the Pistons and Washington.

So please don’t talk about the Heat’s eight straight victories. That’s not the playoffs. That’s a bobsled run. Honestly, Dan, when you put your best player in street clothes and you still thump the other guys, it’s not exactly the Jets versus the Sharks, is it? More like the Sharks versus the Guppies.

Shaquille O’Neal had better wear the short pants tonight. You won’t get a game off Detroit without him in the lineup – and Shaq knows it better than anyone else. He watched the Pistons blow up his old franchise last June. When the Lakers started that series, they were tight as a violin string and cocky as a rooster.

Five games later, they were plucked and chucked.

Heck. Shaq came to Miami only because his La-La life was over. And the Pistons ended it. I don’t imagine O’Neal has many nightmares, but when he does, the creatures wear Detroit uniforms.

Now, let’s address the city part of this rivalry. We both know Detroit cannot compete with Miami in numerous categories that make a town popular, such as nightlife, restaurants and drug trafficking. We have much less sand. Our people do not smell of cocoa butter.

We do not boogie the night away. We do not wrestle alligators. We leased Anna Kournikova; you own her. And we are not the winter home of rock stars, movie stars, golf stars and international arms dealers.

But we do know a few things in the frigid Rust Belt, and one is what happens when the rubber hits the road. The Heat, all bouncy and new, is the rubber. The Pistons, hard and tested, are the road. And that screeching sound you hear is Miami’s spring cruise coming to an end.

Also, we don’t eat dinner at 3 in the afternoon.

News flash: Detroit plays defense. Wait, Dan. I’ll spell it. D-e-f-e-n-s-e. That’s what they call it when a guy from the other side actually gets in your way, instead of acting like an open tollbooth. Dwyane Wade, I’m sure, has read about defense. But he hasn’t seen any practiced since the playoffs began.

He will now. See that lanky fellow over there? The one with the wingspan of a pterodactyl? That’s Tayshaun Prince. He is known by an adjective. “Long.” Go ask Kobe Bryant what that means. It means a hand in every shot. It means a body draping you like a midday shadow.

And when Prince isn’t there, Chauncey Billups is. And when Chauncey isn’t, Rip Hamilton – the human water bug – is. And if Wade gets past them, well, as another famous Floridian named Scarface once said, “Say hello to my little friend.”

Ben Wallace.

OK, so we lied about the “little” part.

The Pistons have the best starting five in basketball. The Heat has two stars that we’ve heard of, and, near as we can tell, the rest of the team is named Jones.

Also, you have the Van Gundy whom people don’t recognize.

No offense, Danny, but the samba line stops here. Or the conga line? Who cares? In Detroit, we use drum sets. And we know the beat. Just as the Pistons beat the best of them last year, they have beaten Philly and Indy this year, and plan on beating The Heat – and The Humidity.

So while I like and respect you as a colleague on ESPN’s “The Sports Reporters”- and by the way, you left a hairbrush in my chair a few weeks ago – and while I remember fondly my days as a south Florida columnist (back then you could drive from Miami to Ft. Lauderdale without having to camp overnight due to traffic), if I have to take a side, I’ll take the boring, rusty, alligator-free side of this series.

After all, you can buy a tan in a bottle. Rings, you have to earn.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or albom@freepress.com. Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).

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