Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Walking it back: Nets/NBA claim, unfoundedly, they confirmed Nets debut because they didn't think mass transit would be so hampered

There's some serious revisionism going on in a New York Times article posted tonight headlined Nets’ Opener Against the Knicks in Brooklyn Is Postponed.

No one--not the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA, nor Mayor Mike Bloomberg--apparently will grapple with the fact that the Nets and the NBA, apparently with the cooperation of City Hall, confirmed that the Nets home opener was on even though they knew the subways would not be restored by the time of the game.

The article states:
About 19 hours after saying the Nets would make their regular-season debut Thursday night at Barclays Center against the Knicks, the N.B.A. on Wednesday accepted Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s recommendation that the game be postponed because of Hurricane Sandy’s lingering effects on the public transportation system.
...The league’s initial optimism — expressed Tuesday in a tweet that said, “Knicks-Nets game will be played as scheduled this Thursday at 7 p.m. — followed hopeful remarks by Bloomberg earlier that day when he said he hoped that the game would be played and that he expected to attend.
Was it optimism?

I wouldn't call it merely "initial optimism" or that it was limited to the NBA, which sent out a tweet at about 8 pm, cited by Times reporter Howard Beck: "As tweeted by NBAPR, Nets-Knicks game for Thursday is a go, with or without subways."

Brett Yormark, CEO of the Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center, at about the same time tweeted that television network TNT "makes it official."

This morning, Yormark told WFAN that it was a joint decision: "We worked very closely with the NBA and the Mayor's office... At the end of the day, for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward.... This isn't a decision the NBA, or the Nets, made in a silo."

Walking it back

The Times seems to be letting Yormark and the NBA walk that back. The article states:
Adam Silver, the N.B.A.’s deputy commissioner, said in a telephone interview that the Twitter message was sent out because “at that moment, the game was on. Games are on until they’re not.” He added: “At that moment, so many fans, arena workers and telecasters were waiting on the decision. And at that point, none of us thought there’d be so little mass transportation this far into the week.”
But expectations that the game would proceed were eventually overwhelmed by the city’s assessment of the subway and rail obstacles created by the hurricane.
Eventually overwhelmed by the city's assessment? C'mon.

More than nine hours earlier, Times staffers were quoting Bloomberg:"Mayor: 4 or 5 days before subways return."

In the new article, the Times reports:
Brett Yormark, the chief executive of the Nets and the arena, said by telephone that the mayor’s “further due diligence and assessment of the damage made it clear that there were higher priorities than hosting the first Nets game in Brooklyn, and we agreed that was the case.”
The Times doesn't mention Yormark's assiduous argument this morning on WFAN that "for lots of different reasons, we felt we needed to move forward. We're working with the MTA... We also feel today this can be in many respects a rallying cry for New York."

So what happened?

Silver told the Times it was the mayor's call. Was the mayor blindsided by the statements by the NBA and Yormark? Maybe, but Yormark claims the mayor's office was in on it.

Was the mayor's office unaware that the subway system wasn't ready? Highly unlikely.

Was the mayor's office acquiescing to a priority expressed by developer Bruce Ratner, a man Bloomberg calls a friend? Perhaps.

So what happened? I don't know. I can only imagine.

Update 6/12/13: I should add that Forest City Enterprises, in its October 2012 Investor Day presentation, had a slide promising a debut on national TV.


A columnist gets it

ESPN columnist Ian O'Connor wrote, in Postponing Nets-Knicks a no-brainer: Staging the Barclays' basketball debut in Sandy's wake would've been a mistake
Yes it was heartless, clueless, lacking in any redeeming social value -- all those things and more. If David Stern thought playing basketball in the immediate wake of Hurricane Sandy would be a great way to kick off his retirement tour as NBA commissioner, he should have retired a long time ago.
Mayor Bloomberg finally called off the madness Wednesday, telling the NBA's elders what they'd likely already heard from their right-minded fans: There was no way they could go ahead with this game. No way they could throw this party in the middle of what will be an enduring human disaster.
And O'Connor doesn't let Yormark and Silver off the hook:
Brett Yormark, whose official title is CEO, Brooklyn Nets and Barclays Center and whose unofficial title is carnival barker, was out there rattling on about ticketholder demands to preserve the game. When Bloomberg slam-dunked the opener for good, Yormark released a statement that ended this way:
"Our hearts go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy. We know these are trying times for so many of you and our thoughts are with you."
If your heart was going out to everyone affected by Hurricane Sandy, Brett, why didn't you apply a little common sense and decency to the process and fight for the postponement of the game?
The same question stands for Adam Silver, commissioner-to-be, who confirmed Bloomberg's recommendation to the league -- Why did the league even need that recommendation before acting? -- and sang the standard our-thoughts-are-with-the-victims song.
The Nets and the league wanted their big night in their $1 billion arena. 
The fans speak

On the fan site NetsDaily, commenters were mixed, though one stated:
Really happy we are getting a game all about Brooklyn. Sad it comes at such an unfortunate circumstance.

The league and Yormark are made of the same sludge. They really wanted this game with people dead, houses gone, and subways ruined?

Thank you Bloomberg. You did the right thing, even if it means me missing the first game ever.

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