Few inanimate objects draw a crowd. The Mona Lisa brings a few people out to Paris, and summers at Sequoia National Park attract onlookers to see the General Sherman Tree, but paintings and trees don't bring the wide smiles a trophy can.
Wednesday night at Whiskey Tango in Hollywood, the 2013 Larry O'Brien Trophy was displayed for all to see. The Miami Heat organization brought the golden trophy, handed out each year to the NBA Champions, for basketball fans of all ages to pose with in pictures.
Von Freeman, director of marketing at radio station 790 AM, explained the night's origin: "At the radio station, we were planning this event tonight where you can win a Refresherator filled with Coors beers when Dan [LeBatard, of the station's Dan LeBatard Show] said, 'Why don't we make the night big and see if we can bring the Heat's championship trophy?' People love it. They're shocked this is the real trophy. The only thing is, you can't touch it.'"
You can't touch it? But why?
"I don't know why. It comes down from Pat Riley. Superstition, maybe?"
There was a representative from the Heat organization present. I asked her why people couldn't touch the trophy. "No interviews," she said. I explained I wasn't going to ask whether the Heat were going to sign Greg Oden in the offseason or for details about LeBron James' upcoming wedding, but she stayed mum.
I asked Stu Gotz, cohost of the Dan LeBatard Show, about the rule. "When it was at the radio station, I kissed the trophy, I hugged it, I did everything but sleep with it. But here even I couldn't touch it."
The no-touch rule didn't seem to bother the hundred or so people who got their pictures taken with the trophy. Two friendly security guards kept their eyes out for any shenanigans, and a professional photographer took pictures with his camera or with your iPhone, if you asked nicely.
Clive Wallace brought his 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter clad in Heat paraphernalia and was excited to get their family picture with the trophy on their Facebook page. This was a wholesome crowd that should be allowed close contact with the prize.
To prove the Heat fan's common decency, I started asking around what people would do with the trophy if they had it for a day, so maybe next year when the Heat threepeat, the fans could get their picture hugging the trophy. Glenn Gable said, "I'd take the trophy out to the basketball courts on A1A by the Miramar Hotel." Jesse Lockhart, wearing a Heat jersey, would take it to the beach, have dinner at a restaurant with the trophy, "then I'd fly it out to San Antonio to rub our win in on the Spurs fans." A little mean-spirited, perhaps, but sounds like they would keep the trophy clean.
James Ungrady said, "If I had the trophy for a day, I'd take it out on my boat." As long as he
brought a life vest for Larry, that seemed like a responsible thought. "I'd take it to Tootsie's," said his friend Carlos Duchespe. I could see why the Miami Heat wouldn't want the trophy to be photographed at a strip club. Maybe next year, just Carlos shouldn't be
allowed to touch it.
I sat down with a group of five adults who had their pictures taken with the trophy. Cicely
Cumandari-Ruiz said, "If they gave me the trophy, I'd take it to the school I work at so all the kids could see it." Before I could compliment that touching thought, her husband, Nick Ruiz, informed me, "I'd take it in the bathroom with me while I took a dump."
Are you a Knicks fan or a Celtics fan?
"We're Heat fans, man. If I had the trophy, I'd beat off on it," explained Nelson Garcia, who I
asked three times if he really wanted his name attributed to that quote. When I asked. "Isn't that disrespectful toward your favorite team?' he assured me, "It's a sign of love for the Heat."
That's the last time I question a mandate from Pat Riley. As far as I'm concerned we're allowing Heat fans to get too close to that trophy. Last thing we need is an outbreak of venereal diseases in the Heat locker room as they defend their title.
Come to think of it, they don't let you touch the Mona Lisa or General Sherman's Tree either.
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