MIAMI BEACH, Fla. -- Would you like to know what just annoys the pure living cheer right out of me? You want to know one of the most annoying conversational habits in our entire annoying culture?
It's the mind-numbing chatter from people who try to sound with-it by conflating the Miami Heat with South Beach, as if the Miami Heat had anything much to do with South Beach.
LeBron James, the big decision show, July 2010: "I'm going to take my talents to South Beach."
Really? Which talents did you mean, for South Beach? Modeling? Well, you are good-looking in addition to all else.
Roy Hibbert, after Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals: "We are taking it back to South Beach."
Oh yeah? Are they moving Game 7? Why? Had somebody booked American Airlines Arena already?
News report, advancing NBA Finals: "The series begins Thursday down in South Beach."
Right, I sure hope nobody arrives in town and starts walking around South Beach, clutching tickets and looking for the arena.
Check the geography: Between South Beach and the Heat's arena lies not a brook, not a stream, not a pond, not a river, but a bay, a big, heaping, gaping bay. On the other side of that big, heaping, gaping bay sits American Airlines Arena, on Biscayne Boulevard, a well-tended spate of hotels and high-rises in the city of Miami (sans Beach). Looking for the Heat in South Beach would be like looking for the Golden State Warriors along the Embarcadero.
Check the history: South Beach was pretty much bedraggled and ramshackle until the 1970s and 1980s, when a group of citizens rescued its art-deco heritage from mindless development and got the neighborhood onto the National Register of Historic Places. And then, pardon the oversimplification, but as in so many other towns, a bunch of gay people moved in, made the place presentable, gave it vitality, then bequeathed it to the tourist-heavy public and skedaddled elsewhere (in this case, Fort Lauderdale). Don't worry. We require no thanks, especially not myself, who could not design a toaster, let alone a community.
By the early 1990s, "South Beach" got cachet and grew ripe for rank misuse, especially in a country renowned for lousiness at geography.
Thus, once James first came to play on Biscayne Boulevard, which is not in South Beach, the grating scourge began and you got headlines from a certain network such as: "Boston's Biggest Threat Waits in South Beach." Really? What was it? Grotesquely oversized cocktails?
Thus, a certain network's question from last series: "Can the Pacers win again on South Beach?" Answer: No, they cannot win again on South Beach, because they never won the first time on South Beach, not in the Eastern Conference finals, not the whole season long, not last season, and not unless you want to go all the way back 45 years to the ABA Miami Floridians, who played sometimes in the Miami Beach Convention Center which, according to most locals, is not technically in South Beach, but at least is not separated from South Beach by a bay.
And thus, a certain TV reporter whom I won't mention here because I like him, gets dubbed "unofficial mayor of South Beach" even though when he comes to town he does his work and holds his court in a building not even visible from the meat of South Beach, a building in a different city.
Just in case, though, I went to South Beach during Game 7 on Monday night, walking miles along Ocean and Collins and Washington and Lincoln, just to see if there were some overlooked arena there, maybe even some hallucinatory arena. I heard snippets of all the usual foreign languages, but none of them Marv Albert - not in person, anyway. (And that's one bizarro thing about glomming onto South Beach, Heat-wise; South Beach teems with people who aren't from Miami, many who wouldn't know the Heat from the Hawks.) I saw a dazzling pageant on Ocean Drive in which drag queens strode the sidewalk entertaining tourists, but no NBA arena. I saw people watching the Heat at Finnegan's Road pub on Lincoln, people watching at the Playwright on Washington, a small gaggle of people watching at a tattoo parlor while one guy sat in the chair getting a tattoo -- what synchronicity! -- but no NBA arena.
Along Ocean Drive, there were some of those TV screens large enough to be visible from other planets, and a large and bustling outdoor crowd, all at the Clevelander, which should get points for its poignant name nowadays -- just no NBA arena.
Now, here we go to the Finals.
ESPN "First Take" tweet: Bad news for the Heat: "The rested Spurs are headed to South Beach."
But that's good news, because if they go to South Beach, they'll have to forfeit Game 1.
Newspaper report: "Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili will come into South Beach on Thursday with a collection of championship jewelry ..."
I wonder if they'll try to sell it on the streets to unsuspecting European tourists. Parker could help with any French-English interpretation.
"That's what I play this game for, is to win championships." -- LeBron James
Maybe if he wins another one he can take the trophy over to South Beach. He could put it in the passenger seat and drive it across one of the bridges.