With the hilarious embarrassment of hundreds of Miami Heat fans fleeing the scene of one of their team’s greatest triumphs, we should examine (for the benefit of those who wish to see me skive through another day of work without actually doing any) what the proper etiquette is for fans who want to go before the scoreboard says so.
Thus, The Rules. Live them, love them, fear them.
1. YOU ARE THE MASTER OF YOUR OWN BEDTIME: If you have a compelling reason to leave before triple-zeros, then you should do so. But the key word here is “compelling.” Beating the traffic is not compelling. You have to go to work in the morning is not compelling. Your kid throwing up that third churro- and-cotton-candy soufflé is.
2. BLAMING THE NETWORKS IS THE LAZY DOG’S EXCUSE: You know when game time is. You’ve had tickets for literally days, and if you bought that day, you had to see when to get to the arena. If the game starts later because of television, that must be part of your pregame decision-making, not your late-game justification strategy.
3. THE MORE IMPORTANT THE GAME, THE LESS EXCUSE YOU HAVE: You spent ridiculous money to go to a playoff game, idiotic money to go to a late-series playoff game, and felony bail money for good seats at a championship-series playoff game. You stay to the end, because otherwise you have not behaved in a cost-effective manner, and the head of HR will be down your throat and out your nethers before lunch time the next business day.
4. THE LESS IMPORTANT THE GAME, THE MORE EXCUSE YOU HAVE: Marlins-Giants, or Jaguars-Raiders, or Timberwolves-Cavs, you can show up with three minutes left in the second quarter and be out by halftime, and nobody will notice nor care.
5. IN THE FINALS, MARGIN OF SCORE IS NOT A FACTOR: It’s your team, because you went to the absurd lengths you have just to get tickets. You stand with them, or turn in the free T-shirt you got with your $2,100 seat, you poser.
6. IF YOU LEAVE EARLY AND YOUR TEAM COMES BACK TO WIN, YOU MUST TELL YOUR FRIENDS AND CO-WORKERS WHAT A COMPLETE AND UTTER BERK YOU ARE: No lying about how great the game was, or how you’ll never forget it. No lying, no b.s.-ing, no fronting. “Own the sin if you want to be forgiven of the sin, jackass” – St. Todd of Aquinas.
7. IF YOU LEAVE THE BUILDING EARLY AND WANT TO RETURN, YOU CANNOT COMPLAIN IF THE SECURITY PEOPLE SAY NO: One, nothing says a potential riot quite like you rushing back, your team losing the game after their spirited comeback, and you trying to go in while angry but more loyal patrons and coming out. Two, you had your chance when you were in. Three, shut up.
8. IF YOU LEAVE YOUR SEAT EARLY, BUT GO BACK BEFORE YOU LEAVE THE BUILDING, YOU’RE FINE: No punishment will be rained upon you – as long as you take the abuse you will get in good humor. “I’ve done stupider things in my life,” you might say. “Like paying $62.50 for that gin-and-tonic at halftime.” People love penitence, and they especially love penitence when combined with the return-to-your-seat perp walk.
9. WHEN YOU RETURN FOR THE NEXT GAME, MAKE SURE YOU STAY UNTIL THE END NO MATTER WHAT: We are not a forgiving nation, but we do have short attention spans. If you stay until the end in the game after the one in which you left early, most people will forget your abysmal behavior. Do it twice, though, and it's your ass.
10. AND FINALLY, REMEMBER THE CHILDREN: You are an example to the miserable backstairs sprog you sired, and if you bugger off at the first sign of your team losing, you will be contributing to the front-running, spine-deficient, character-deprived big-kid’s-blouse-ification of the nation. You turn to your impatient little Brandon or Brittany and say with all the Catholic/Jewish/Episcopalian/Quaker/Baha’I guilt you can muster, “But if we leave before the game ends, the mascot will cry.” If your children are too old for that, threats of thankless chores are the better way to go; “If we go now, when we get home, you’ll clean up the dog’s leavings in the back yard with a flashlight, tweezers and your school backpack.” And if they’re old enough to drive – well, they shouldn’t be your responsibility at that point anyway. Cut the cord, Joan Crawford.
And an addendum to 10. If your kid actually is hurling back the culinary remnants of a night at the arena, you have to go, regardless of game situation. No choice. No argument. As you rush up the aisle holding the spewmonster at arm’s length, your fellow patrons will look at you with admiration and sympathy and say, “Now there’s a devoted parent. I fell sorry that he can’t stay, but he’s doing the right thing.
“Well, actually, he’s doing the wrong thing, but at least that little hydrant of crap nutrition isn’t ruining MY clothes. Oh, that wasn’t a foul. JOEY CRAWFORD, YOU THIEVING BASTARD!”