Dwyane Wade has been the villain in too many road games to count. It comes with the territory when you’re an NBA star intent on ending somebody else’s season.
Tonight’s Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals will be different, however, because this time Wade is being viewed as a bad guy. He’s not, but shooting pregame jumpers during the Canadian national anthem a few games ago in Miami has painted him as one in Toronto.
This was an unforced error and Wade knows it. His customary pregame routine got interrupted by a change in the anthem presentation schedule and caught him off guard.
Hearing those first few notes should have been enough to stop Wade in his tracks and get him scurrying over to stand in line with his teammates, or maybe, if Wade was wearing earbuds or otherwise zoned out, somebody with the Heat could have gotten his attention. Either way, it happened, and Wade wasn’t quick enough to specifically apologize for showing disrespect, and even in mild-mannered Canada that’s enough to get some anti-social stuff going on social media.
So what will happen tonight as a sold-out Air Canada Centre crowd exacts its revenge?
Not much, I’m guessing, based on another international incident between our nations caused by a sport-related blunder.
During the 1992 World Series a Marine Corps color guard in Atlanta mistakenly raised the Canadian with the maple leaf symbol upside-down. The sergeant who attached the flag had been rushed because it was presented to him just moments before his detail took the field with the introductory fanfare music already playing and, well, nobody knew what was wrong until the bungled banner was already on its way up the pole.
When the World Series shifted to Toronto, Canadian fans could have reacted the way fans in, say, Philly or New York or Miami would have reacted in the situation were reversed. I won’t name all the ways that could have gone. Just imagine it, and then wipe it quickly from your mind.
Instead, the reaction was forgiveness. Thousands of fans stood during the playing of the U.S. national anthem and sang out the words themselves, as loudly and proficiently as they could. In fact, cheers actually filled the stadium when Jon Secada belted out the closing flourish.
Of course, President George H.W. Bush had done what he could to help matters beforehand. In a classic America-first way, of course.
“They are our friends and our allies,” Bush said of Canadians. “They have respect for our flag, and we have respect for theirs. They are a great people, and I hope they come in second in the World Series.”
The Toronto Blue Jays didn’t come in second. They beat the Atlanta Braves in six games, taking the clincher in 11 innings at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
Karma? No, just one good team beating another. It will be that way again tonight in Toronto with either the Heat or the Raptors winning based on nothing whatsoever that happens in the pregame ceremonies.
Just the same, Wade has learned his lesson, and maybe the rest of us will, too, about Canada. It’s too nice of a place and too good of a friend to be ignored, especially when there’s no good excuse for such ignorance.
And as for those times Toronto fans booed Chris Bosh on his return to the city as a member of the Miami Heat, hey, that’s just sports. Everybody gets that.