Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NYC rivalry amps up with Nets win over Knicks; Mayor salutes "great Bruce Ratner;" Markowitz crows; Yormark says Brooklyn has "a team to be proud of" (what about Atlantic Yards promises?)

So the guys wearing Brooklyn Nets uniforms beat the guys (minus a few out for injuries) wearing New York Knicks uniforms last night in an overtime game that had the Barclays Center rocking, bringing the Nets tied with the Knicks in first place in their division.

The news, according to the New York Post cover at right, was more important than the bill from Superstorm Sandy. The Daily News, below left, was slightly more modest.

"The city is under new management," tweeted Jay-Z, aka Shawn Carter, prompting a mere 7600-plus re-tweets.
 
"Brooklyn Nets are Kings' of NYC...How sweet it is!" declared Borough President Marty Markowitz, who earlier clashed publicly with Spike Lee, a Brooklynite but eternal Knick fan.

"A team to be proud of"

"Start believing brooklyn," pronounced Nets/arena CEO Brett Yormark. "You have a team to be proud of. Congrats. More to come."

We "have" a team. That's how it works: communities embrace sports entertainment corporations owned by billionaires, and get engaged with analyzing the sporting details--and get distracted from the rest.

"We'll get back to you on that affordable housing," riposted writer and (The Classical editor) David Roth.

Celebrities in the house

Along with Jay-Z and Beyonce, celebrities included Michael Strahan, Charlie Rose, Richard Gere and Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who brought a host of city aides.

"What a game! With the great
 Bruce Ratner, headed to OT"

As noted below, the Mayor's office tweeted, unashamedly, a picture of the Mayor captioned "With the great Bruce Ratner."

The "great Bruce Ratner" who seems to be angling for bizarre tax discounts? Who said Atlantic Yards would be done in ten years, then said it was never supposed to be that time?

The rivalry is joined

As the Times (which teased the story with a front page photo, below) reported:
“Broook-lynnn.”

The chants signaled the start of a new rivalry and the official arrival of the Nets, who ground through four quarters and an overtime to take a 96-89 victory over the Knicks at Barclays Center, in the first N.B.A. game between two New York City teams.

Momentum swung wildly all night, every big play accompanied by a strange blend of competing chants and cheers from a divided crowd. But as the final minutes ticked down, the Nets found their footing and their fans got the final word, a prolonged and emphatic chant: “Broook-lynnn.”
Who's in charge?

When you have sports reporters telling most of the story, the sports story, naturally, takes precedence.

And they love that narrative.

" A rivalry grows in Brooklyn," declared the Post's Mike Vaccaro. "The city game belongs to the city once again. More, please."

The rivalry plumbed

A Times Sports article yesterday queried a rapper less celebrated than Jay-Z, in Fat Joe Has Undivided Attention on Knicks:
Q. What do you think of the Nets’ moving to Brooklyn?

A. I think it’s amazing. I like their whole vibe of what the Nets are putting together. It’s a real competitive team they are running out there. But I believe also that if you’re a true Knicks fan, you just don’t jump on their bandwagon. They’re the Brooklyn Nets, you know, but we’re the New York Knicks.

...Q. Can someone root hard for both teams? To just be a fan of New York sports?

A. No, man. That just ain’t right, in any sport. So you’re either a Giants fan or a Jets fan. You’re either a Brooklyn Nets fan, or you’re a New York Knicks fan.

Q. What do you think of the N.H.L.’s moving to Brooklyn?

A. It’s great, you know? Brooklyn’s like its own little state.
Times Sports columnist George Vecsey wrote, in yesterday's A Rivalry to Add to the City’s Rich History:
 It may take a while, but that’s all right. The 177 previous games between these franchises do not count. That was suburban stuff, with the Nets wandering from one leaky or dingy or soulless place to another, looking for urbanity. Now they have a home. What the relocated rivalry needs is history, and that takes time.
...The players are too cool and rich and interconnected to embody any upstairs-downstairs resentments; they will say what they think fans and the news media want to hear about the glory of a New York rivalry.
The future of this four-times-a-season derby ultimately depends on the quality of the teams — surprisingly high so far — and any outer-borough-vs.-Midtown resentments that kick in. Or maybe the personalities of the owners: the tall, voluble Russian owner of the Nets vs. the bearded recluse owner of the Knicks, polar opposites right there.
Don’t rush it. This is New York — Brooklyn and Manhattan. Listen for the beat. Beep-beep-beep. Something will happen.
I'd bet his next column will say that it did, and quickly.

The Times reported on the scene before the game:
There was, despite athletic disagreements, a pleasant hometown spirit at the game. Part of this was no doubt economic: As of Monday afternoon, courtside seats could be bought online for $1,500, and even the nosebleed seats in the highest upper decks were selling for more than $300.
Part, however, was that unique New York aggressiveness, a friendly form of fratricide that manages to be affable and belligerent at once. Case in point was the barbed exchange between Spike Lee, the filmmaker and Knicks fan, and Marty Markowitz, the Brooklyn borough president.
A Council Member's dilemma

The New York Observer explored the dilemma of Brooklyn Council Member Jumaane Williams, a lifelong Knicks fan:

“It’s something I’ve grappled with….It’s very, very tough, but I think I’m Brooklyn enough. Nobody can question my Brooklyn-ness, not even Marty Markowitz,” Mr. Williams said. “I’ve decided this fall to take my talents back to the Garden.”

Mr. Williams said the decision was a “struggle” for him because he is a proud, native Brooklynite.

“I’m Brooklyn. I’m Brooklyn. I’m born-and-bred diehard Brooklyn. I believe I reek, smell of Brooklyn wherever I go and I’m very proud of that. And I’m a basketball fan, I’ve been a Knicks fan for life, so it was a struggle,” said the Councilman with an audible sigh. “They’re [the Nets] doing their thing now. The colors look good, you know, you see the Brooklyn. It’s just tough and I’m sort of sad.”
Williams is known as one of the more politically conscious Council Members. Yet even he seems to have devoted more attention to hoops loyalty than, say, the details of the Atlantic Yards Community Benefits Agreement.

---Updates below---

Dave D'Alessandro wrote in the Star-Ledger, Nets enjoy homecourt advantage in 96-89 overtime victory over Knicks:
For perhaps the first time since they cut the ribbon on this place, the show they put on here — a pristine, symmetrical and airy space — felt like it belonged here.
No, not so much inside the rusted bedpan that serves as its shell. We’re talking about the neighborhood in which this building resides — an environment that is filled with sirens and smoke, of clutter and clatter, of teeming sidewalks and gridlocked crosswalks.
Sometimes a basketball game comes out looking that way, and this was one of those times. Barclays felt like an arena that should host an overtime spectacle such as this — a game that stepped out of the schoolyard and came in out of the cold, something noisy and rugged, robust and imperfect; with just the kind of energy that contained a message from the Nets and Knicks that did not even need public expression.
To be continued, it said.
Patrick Clark wrote in the Observer, Hoops Hoops Hooray! Knicks, Nets Make New York a Basketball Town Again:
The Isiah Thomas era and the Knicks’ failed pursuit of LeBron James are old news. The Nets’ long struggle for big-city relevance got lost somewhere in New York harbor. When the teams squared off Monday night in Brooklyn’s new Barclays Center, the city had plenty to cheer about: real stars, the top two spots in the Atlantic Division standings and the eyes of millions upon us.
“Brooooooklyn,” they sang in the style of Biggie Smalls—the best rallying cry in American sports—when the Nets scored a bucket. “MVP!” they chanted when Knicks star Carmelo Anthony stepped to the free throw line. The crowd was so loud at times it was hard to believe that the 17,000-plus fans weren’t all cheering for the same side.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among them, as were Michael Strahan, Charlie Rose, Richard Gere and, of course, Nets part-owner Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé. By our count, there were 100 members of the press on hand, including representatives from Chinese, German and Italian outlets. ESPN had 12 journalists at the game, in case you were wondering how the sports network gauged its importance.
In the end, Mr. Anthony missed a jumper that would have won the game in regulation, and the Nets outlasted the Knicks in overtime. It didn’t matter, much.
For a night, we could forget that the Knicks hadn’t won a title in 40 years, forget about Bernard King’s balky knees and Patrick Ewing’s shaky nerves, forget about anything having to do with Mr. Thomas.
New York was back where it belonged, as the basketball center of the universe.
He liked the arena:
I can report that a trip to the Nets’ new arena offers temptation enough for a lesser-willed fan to cross over: High ceilings (this is Brooklyn, so exposed ducts, natch) and open sightlines; a thoughtfully curated selection of local food (Spumoni Gardens for the natives, Fatty ’Cue for the arrivistes, Nathan’s for the tourists); instead of the light shows that often mar pregame introductions, a dignified volley of fireworks. Instead of stadium anthems, music that reminds you that Brooklyn belongs to the world. (We have to wonder, though, how big a cut the sound man is getting from Roc-A-Fella Records: with the exception of the periodic Biggie track, it was almost entirely Jay-Z’s catalog.)
Slick Rick played at halftime. He was pudgy, and some of the words were lost in the acoustics, but still, it was a classy nod to New York City’s hip-hop history, and something that’s hard to imagine going down at corporatized Madison Square Garden.
I can also report, happily, that on the evidence of one evening, the fan exodus isn’t happening. Led by Mr. Anthony—reinspired, the sportswriters say, and leaner at the waist after playing alongside Mr. James in the London Olympics—and Tyson Chandler, the biggest man on the court, if not tip to toe, then certainly by the size of his heart, the Knicks have the look of a title contender. Maybe not a favorite, but at least a plausible long shot. It’s not just the fans who think so: the team filled out its roster for this season with veterans like Jason Kidd and Rasheed Wallace, the type of already-rich players lured not by the biggest paycheck but by the best title shot.
So the Nets fans were more numerous, more conspicuous in their “Fan Since Day One” badges (oh really?) and black-and-white Brooklyn gear. Knicks fans were, if not louder, better at the business of being fans.
Columnist Harvey Araton wrote in the Times, More Than a Murmur, Not Yet a Roar:
All things considered, Nets Coach Avery Johnson’s hope for an 80-20 crowd split — the inverse of how it felt to him when the Knicks played New Jersey — was wishful thinking. The actual percentages were impossible to quantify, but put it this way: a split was win-win for the Nets.
Even taking into account their drastic improvement and current sharing with the Knicks of the divisional lead, the arena for now is the greater attraction, the borough’s pride, neighborhood opposition to its existence notwithstanding.
You see it in the young people climbing the stairs while exiting the subway, smartphone cameras poised to capture the immediate view of the much-discussed oculus, lighted theatrically under the darkened sky. Where once there was a hole in the ground there is now a destination, and that is the much bigger story than Brook Lopez’s development or Joe Johnson’s missing jump shot.
...When that happens — to anywhere near the extent of Monday night — we will know the Nets have arrived citywide. For now, they can have the satisfaction of landing the first blow and hearing Anthony, who spurned their advances for the Knicks, admit it might have worked out differently had Barclays already been built.
“Yeah, I have to say there would have been a much better chance,” he said on the way out Monday night for the commute home. “This is a beautiful place.”
Where once there was a hole in the ground... Not exactly.

Yahoo columnist Adrian Wojnarowsk wrote, in Nets find credibility and a home in Brooklyn with victory over Knicks:
The Barclays Center is a magnificent edifice, and the Nets business and marketing departments had pushed the NBA hard on delivering them the Knicks on the season's opening night in late October. The business side wanted a grand unveiling, a New York happening and yet privately the front office and coaching staffs never wanted to open with the Knicks. The basketball staff wanted time to build toward a meeting with New York, wanted to mold its team, its chemistry and gather momentum on the way to this game. 
In New York magazine, Will Leitch wrote, in Notes and Observations on the First Knicks-Nets Barclays Battle:
• This is being billed as “the Nets are taking over the city!” this morning, but let’s not get carried away. It's one of the signature games at Barclays Center so far this season, with the Nets poised to make as big a statement as they can make, and this crowd was honestly 50-50 throughout. It’s rare in sports that you find a crowd that’s essentially split down the middle — the Florida-Georgia game in Jacksonville comes to mind (though Georgia tends to have the slight edge there), or the Illinois-Missouri basketball game before Christmas in St. Louis — but that’s what this one was. It was legitimately thrilling to witness: Shots from both sides brought roars from the crowd, a rarity in sports.
...• Before the game, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said he had never been to Brooklyn before. This struck many as surprising, but it shouldn’t be. Athletes and coaches do so much traveling that any sort of side trip to a borough when they have no need to is simply a waste of time. When we interviewed Nets GM Billy King in Brooklyn around November 2011, he admitted it was only the third or fourth time he’d ever been in Brooklyn either. Athletes don’t bother with places that their drivers don’t take them directly, for a specific purpose. We bet most Knicks haven’t been anywhere other than the Garden, the Upper East Side, and White Plains in months.
• For that matter: Don’t think many Nets players, coaches, and staff are hitting up Mo’s Fort Greene either. They get the hell out of dodge, too. By the looks of all the rows of liveries and limos lined up on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues afterward, they’re far from the only ones.
Grantland's Ben Detrick wrote We Went There: The Battle for New York:
Even in a showdown billed as the "Battle for New York" or the “Clash of the Boroughs” or “A Bunch of Professional Athletes Who Live in Westchester Playing for Franchises Across the Bridge From Each Other,” most Nets fans aren't emotionally invested enough to curse at every miss. When someone in the Barclays Center stands shouts passionate words, a fair assumption is that they're one of Mirza Teletovic's local relatives from Little Sarajevo.
To compensate for the lack of crowd noise, the public address system blares a ceaseless mix of hip-hop instrumentals and vocal snippets. It's technically the best music in any sports arena — where else can you hear Bonecrusher's "Never Scared" and Biggie's "N----s Bleed?" — but there's a zombifying oversaturation effect. When Humphries yoked up Tyson Chandler for a jump ball in the third quarter, cheers for the energetic defensive effort were instantly smothered by a 30-second megamix of Kris Kross and Busta Rhymes. Later, during the taut fourth quarter, a growing chant of "D-Fence" was drowned out by Biggie's "The What." Let the people find their voice, man.
Together, the frenetic playlist and oxygen-consuming presence of Jay-Z make it appear as if the Nets are presenting themselves as the OFFICIAL HIP-HOP BASKETBALL TEAM. It feels very '90s, and not in the dope vintage Coogi sweater way (on the upside, the girl in a bikini top who was giving out free temporary Nets tattoos looked a lot like Foxy Brown).


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