Finally, The Finals

Us sports nuts have been waiting since Saturday for the Dallas Mavericks-Miami Heat NBA Finals to start. Devoted Mavs fans have been waiting 26 years, actually. But for the rest of you Dallasites just now trendily hopping aboard the bandwagon (Hi, honey!), here's a neophyte primer to this really important sports thingie:

    It's a championship series, not just one game. A team has to win four games to win the trophy. In other words, don't try to be cool and pick "Mavs in three" or "Heat in nine." And when--not if--the Mavs win Game 1, don't go buying the entire flock at Hotel Zaza celebratory shots, 'cuz it ain't over.

    It's a series, not a Super Bowl. Don't kid yourself, there will be palpable electricity in the American Airlines Center tonight. But Paul McCartney won't be performing at halftime, and we won't be dissecting the TV commercials for weeks to come. Some celebs will be in the house, but mostly it's just really good basketball.

    Not all games are played in an American Airlines hanger. Miami's arena is called AmericanAirlinesArena. It's one word, for some weird reason.

    The Mavs' best player is Dirk Nowitzki, he's the long-haired blonde shooting long jump shots. Miami's best player is Shaquille O'Neal, he's the giant dunking the ball through the hoop with such force you'll want to run for the exits.

    The old guy with the slicked-back hair near Miami's bench is Heat coach Pat Riley. The guy with the soup-bowl haircut in the Mavs huddle is owner Mark Cuban. The guy yelling like his pants are on fire is P.A. announcer Billy Hayes. Don't worry, he's been that excited since the first game of the season. In October.

    The game is played in four quarters. Really long shots are worth three points. And...

...Aw, forget it. Just enjoy, because this is going to be too cool. Finally. --Richie Whitt

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