NBA Finals: Miami fans in Oklahoma City catch anything but heat

Heat fans impressed with energy and respect they received from Thunder fans at Chesapeake Energy Arena and across the city.
BY ZEKE CAMPFIELD Staff Writer zcampfield@opubco.com Published: June 13, 2012

They're the pariah of fandom — those who dare to cheer the visiting team despite the otherwise unanimous roar of support for the hometown boys.

But the handful of Miami Heat fans who dared to show their colors for opening night of the NBA Finals said when it comes to Oklahoma City Thunder fans, courtesy matches enthusiasm.

In fact, wearing LeBron James T-shirts together — one black, one maroon — at Bricktown restaurants and bars before and after Tuesday's game, as well as inside the arena, brought nothing but positive attention to Robert Gasso and Don Pingaro, two season-ticket holders from Miami.

“You see on TV the OKC fans that are just super enthusiastic, and you think, ‘Am I going to come out of there alive?' But I'm telling you, I did not receive one harsh word in that stadium,” Gasso said. “Even leaving the stadium, when all you guys were screaming ‘OKC, OKC!' I didn't have one person point a finger at me, say anything bad. I was in shock.”

Surrounded by a sea of blue and white, Gasso and Pingaro easily stuck out Tuesday from their perch in Loud City.

The two work in real estate, and during their college days at University of Miami, they traveled to away games regularly. Game 1 at Chesapeake Energy Arena, Gasso said, was unlike any sports event they have experienced. In fact, they will likely sell their Row 10 tickets to next week's games in Miami to cover the costs of watching live in Oklahoma City again Thursday night, he said.

Gasso said what he heard about Thunder fans was true: You might as well add them to the team roster.

“It's unbelievable; there's a tremendous home court advantage like I've never seen,” he said. “I mean the Heat fans, they're very enthusiastic about their team and they pack the arena, but the noise decibel level (inside Chesapeake) is pretty insane.”

Gasso's was an experience shared by many other Heat fans, both local and from afar, on Tuesday.

“Little jokes here and there, but they've been great,” said Gus Perez, who was wearing a red T-shirt with “Spo Knows” — a reference to Miami coach Erik Spoelstra — and standing in line for a hot dog on the third-level concourse.

It was halftime and the Heat was still ahead, but Perez, also from Miami, said he was making friends with his enemies in blue.

“Amazing crowd, amazing fans as advertised. But a lot of sad people tonight going home,” he said.



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