Thursday, November 01, 2012

OK, the consensus becomes that keeping the Nets-Knicks game would've been a bad idea. But the Nets and the NBA get off mostly unscathed, as does Bloomberg.

The belated backlash to the unwise decision to continue with the Nets-Knicks opener scheduled for tonight--until Mayor Mike Bloomberg yesterday stopped it--continues.

Still, no one has challenged the unfounded explanation, as accepted by the New York Times, by Brooklyn Nets CEO Brett Yormark and NBA Deputy Commissioner Adam Silver that they didn't know how bad the subways were when they made the decision to reaffirm the plan.

In fact, the Times devotes far more resources to an article about Knicks fans becoming Nets fans.

Nor has anyone tried to figure out how and why Mayor Mike Bloomberg--whose office, according to Yormark, coordinated with the decision to keep the game--changed his mind. (I speculate that the cops might have protested.) Michael D.D. White, in his Noticing New York blog, captures the mayor's unseemly, boosterish tone:
In the course of two back-to-back news conferences on the extraordinary disaster accompanying hurricane he twice embarrassed himself, each time taking time out from the business of the hurricane relief efforts and reports on deaths to swing into promotion for the so-called “Barclays” basketball arena (which he has started calling a “stadium”- does he think a full scale stadium could have been squeezed into the neighborhood?).
Yormark sheepish

Appearing for the second straight day on the WFAN show Boomer & Carton, Yormark this morning was sheepish: "Y'know, we had our conversation yesterday... as I said... it's been a collaborative effort, with the league, the mayor's office, and obviously our management. And yesterday morning, and more towards midday, the mayor had called us, and after further assessment on obviously the prolific damage done to the city, he felt it was most appropriate to pause for a couple of days until Saturday. So that's what we all agreed to. Listen, we've got to do what's best for the community; if that in fact is what's best, then we went along with it."

That doesn't hold water: the NBA's explanation was that they didn't realize how long it would take for mass transit to recover--but that warning was issued nine hours before the game was reaffirmed.

Craig Carton (who'd earlier tweeted about "media sheep") commented, "This was not a decision that you guys were allowed to make unilaterally... But it was interesting to me that, y'know yesterday, everybody on the conference call, you said to us, you, everyone was 100% Yes, we're playing the game. And the mayor was the one who picked up the phone and said, Y'know what, we're not playing the game, and here's why. When he makes that phone call, who's involved?"

"He called the league first, and the league got me involved," Yormark responded. "And obviously , if that was the wishes of the mayor's office, then we went along with it." (Note that Yormark had said yesterday that the mayor's office was part of the group that agreed that the game should go on.)

"Obviously you heard him the day before, he was interested in making sure this game went on and in fact said he would attend it," Yormark continued. "But listen, we all reserve the right to make changes, and those changes are hopefully based on further evaluation, and doing what's right. And the mayor changed his position, and we did as well." (But there was no new evaluation to be done; it looks like the mayor was either ignored by the NBA, or swayed by the arguments for the "historic" home opener.)

"We'll open up on Saturday night, it'll be as dramatic as it would've been Thursday," Yormark claimed, settling back into "carnival barker" mode (to quote Ian O'Connor). "We're going to open up two hours earlier... It seems like slowly rail's coming back on line. Maybe it's going to be better because more fans are going to be able to come out."

Carton said later, "It doesn't matter to me how you get to the right answer, as long as you get there. I told you was offended by the fact that there was going to be a game when we all spoke yesterday... And I'm glad you guys got to it: whether it was the mayor, or Marty Markowitz, or you guys, y'know, whatever Boomer and I had to do with it by bringing it up.... I'm glad that you guys--don't be offended by this--came to your senses and agreed that today was not the right day to open up that building."

"Craig, I agree with you," Yormark replied. "Y'know what, no one's perfect. I think, after just further assessment and further evaluation, we decided it was the right thing to do. And I appreciate your candor yesterday."

"Plus, there's another good aspect of it as well," Carton riposted. "You're not going to lose your home opener." Yormark invited him to join him at the rescheduled game.

Bloomberg on video

The video below mashes up Bloomberg's statement on two days ago with his statement yesterday:



A couple of columnists

Columnist Tara Sullivan of The (Bergen) Record wrote:
New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg did the right thing when he convinced the NBA to postpone tonight’s scheduled season opener between the Nets and Knicks, correctly realizing how frivolous the image of a half-empty Barclays Center would appear in the midst of the sad, haunting pictures of damage. Now it’s time for him to do the same with Sunday’s New York City Marathon. After telling fans, “I’m sorry about the game,” the mayor underscored his own point by adding, “The police have other things to do.”
...So yes, Bloomberg was right in changing the minds of an NBA brain trust that, for days, continued to insist the Knicks-Nets opener would go on as scheduled. Their desire came as no surprise, given the strong national TV ratings that would have been drawn with two regional powers going at it for the first time since the long-standing, stepchild Nets moved right into big brother’s backyard.
Wrote Daily News columnist Mitch Lawrence:
[NBA Commissioner David] Stern doesn’t normally take orders. But when Mayor Bloomberg called Wednesday to say he thought that the league should postpone Brooklyn’s big night and the season-opener between the Nets and Knicks, the commissioner did the right thing.
The NBA didn’t object. Everyone knows it had to be done.
As of Wednesday morning, it bordered on incredible that the NBA was still willing to give the Nets what they had lusted for long before the schedule came out. It’s as if Stern was sitting out in Omaha, oblivious to what Sandy had done right below his nose.
...When it comes to promoting their new digs, Bruce Ratner and everyone else associated with the Nets have trumpeted the same sensible advice from the get-go: Don’t drive. Take the subway. After what Sandy did, it’s become, what subway? Thankfully, no one is going to have to figure out a way to get to a place no one wants to take his car to.
Not quite. Saturday's game will be a challenge. But it least it won't be a work day, with commuters, and more of the transit system should be back.

No one's nearly as tough as ESPN's Ian O'Connor, who called the decision to keep the game heartless, clueless, lacking in any redeeming social value, and didn't let Yormark and Silver off the hook.

Mike Vaccaro wrote in the New York Post:
The important thing is, everyone got it right, postponing the Knicks-Nets game in Brooklyn tonight and preventing what would have been an epic case of misplaced judgment. It isn’t necessary to over-praise Mayor Bloomberg for essentially forcing the NBA to do the right thing, same as it isn’t imperative to fillet the short-sighted decision makers who were originally going to allow an event to go on in a building celebrated for its devotion to public transportation even as saltwater continues to eat away at subway tracks in stricken stations and tunnels.
Here is what matters: They got it right.
We’ll know when the time is right to resume...
Times sports columnist Lynn Zinser wrote:
O.K., let’s see if we have this straight: Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg wisely slaps down the N.B.A.'s initial ridiculous idea to play the Nets-Knicks opener as scheduled Thursday at Barclays Center in Brooklyn because of the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, then pauses about two secondsbefore declaring the New York City Marathon must go on.

...The mayor’s news conferences often seem to be conveying several different ideas at once, in several languages, including one resembling Spanish, but this time he is apparently talking from two different planets. The wise, caretaking mayor from Planet Earth decides the N.B.A. must take a back seat to the city’s overall welfare on Thursday while the smooth-talking mayor from Planet Money Trumps All decides that whatever cash spills from the pockets of out-of-town runners, however many of them can even manage to get to the city, is worth draining the city of critical resources for a race on Sunday.
As noted, he really wasn't so wise about the NBA game.
The beat reporters

The story has been mostly left to the sports reporters, whose main sources (duh) are the Nets and the NBA.

Daily News beat reporter Stefan Bondy, who's often unskeptical of Yormark, did recognize an irony:
On Wednesday morning – hours before Bloomberg announced the postponement – Nets CEO Brett Yormark went on WFAN to laud the decision to play the game, urging New Yorkers to use it as a source of inspiration. He also said e-mails from season ticket holders indicated fans "overwhelmingly" wanted to the game played Thursday.
“This can be in many respects rallying cry for New York,” Yormark told the radio station. “Obviously its devastation what went on here. It’s going to be a long recovery, but we do need to forward.”
The New York Post reported simply:
The NBA initially had announced Tuesday night that the game would proceed as scheduled. But Mayor Bloomberg said at a news conference yesterday he had pushed the league to postpone the game because of the impact of the storm on the city, and in particular to the mass transit system.
New York magazine's Joe DeLessio wrote:
Frankly, we couldn't believe the NBA had intended to go ahead with the game. Fans have been told for months that they should take public transportation to the arena, and that they shouldn't even think about driving. Barclays Center has been playing up all the subway lines that service the arena, but as of last night, all lines were shut down, and only partial service could be restored tomorrow. Suddenly, Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz was encouraging fans, if the game was on, to take buses and ... carpool. It would have been a total shitshow — unless everyone just stayed home, which isn't exactly ideal either.
Then again, his colleague Will Leitch had written a day earlier:
Mayor Bloomberg had put his support behind playing, but with no trains — and a flooded subway entrance — the much-anticipated game was in serious doubt. But no longer! Tipoff is at 7 p.m. on Thursday night.
This might turn into one of those "can't keep New York down!" nights, and hey: The game's cheaper to go to now too.
The Wall Street Journal's Scott Cacciola reported, in So Much for the Grand Opening:
The move came at the request of mayor Michael Bloomberg, who urged NBA officials to postpone the game because of continuing issues with mass transit in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. Tickets for the game had been selling for hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on the secondary market. Now, the Nets will make history Saturday by playing their first official game in Brooklyn against the decidedly less sexy Toronto Raptors.
Newsday's Roderick Boone reported, in Knicks-Nets season opener at Barclays Center postponed:
It's a turnaround from Tuesday, when Bloomberg said he hoped the game would go on as planned despite the lack of mass transit to the area.
"At my recommendation, the NBA has canceled tomorrow night's Nets-Knicks game," Bloomberg said. "I'm sorry about the game. There is a not a lot of mass transit and our police have better things to do."

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