New York City has a new hoops headquarters — and it’s in Brooklyn.Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times wrote:
Overjoyed Nets fans threatened to shake Brooklyn’s Barclays Center apart with their cheers Saturday as Brooklyn marked its first professional postseason game in more than five decades.
Sporting black T-shirts and waving glow-in-the-dark wristbands that read “Blackout in Brooklyn,” a packed house screamed their lungs out as the borough’s newest sports franchise schooled the Chicago Bulls on Brooklyn hardwood etiquette with a 106-89 win.
The Nets transformed Barclays Center into a grand postseason stage, with dark T-shirts and luminous bracelets, banners and baked goods, fireworks and a drum line, one glorious self-tribute after another.
It was like a concert, Chicago Bulls forward Taj Gibson said. The arena glistened like a gemstone. All that was left, after the team’s owner, Mikhail D. Prokhorov, addressed the crowd and the lights flooded back onto the court, was a basketball game, and a fairly important one for the franchise.
Now, I know what you’re saying: All NBA arenas are loud, especially during the playoffs. And, to a point, you’re right. But there’s something special about the excitement inside Madison Square Garden — something organic and undeniably real that’s hard to find in most buildings. The passion is authentic and the sound gives you goose bumps, and until you’ve experienced it, you can’t possibly know what it’s like.
And that’s a front on which the Nets crowd — at least for now — can’t possibly compare. And I know, because I was there, too.
After Anthony finished his media session at MSG at 6:41, I hopped on the 2-train to Brooklyn and got off at Atlantic Terminal around 7:10. And from the moment I walked into the billion-dollar monstrosity, I was bombarded with reminders to be excited, starting with a glowing plastic bracelet featuring the hashtag “#helloplayoffs.” When they got to their seats, fans were met with black T-shirts promoting the “blackout in Brooklyn,” and the media seats even had cookies commemorating the first playoff game at Barclays Center.
A drumline — one not unlike the Knicks’ own drumline — took the court before the game, as did the Nets’ unnerving Brooklyn Knight mascot. And finally, at 8:14, after a riveting national anthem from Nets forward Jerry Stackhouse (no, really) and an unintelligible statement from owner Mikhail Prokhorov, the game tipped off. And though the arena was loud for most of the night, the energy was somehow lacking.
Throughout the evening, deafening music thumped and the team’s dreadlocked PA announcer urged the crowd to make some noise and support their team. But it seemed cheesy and even unnecessary at times, leaving me wondering why they needed to be reminded.
By and large, the sound felt manufactured in a way I’ve never experienced at MSG, and though there were genuine moments of excitement — like the reaction afterDeron Williams’ thunderous reverse dunk with 39 seconds left in the third — the spectacle surrounding the game ultimately took away from the incredible basketball the Nets were playing on the floor. In short, it was fun, but it wasn’t a Knicks game.
Time to build
Will Leitch wrote 4/24/13, in Sports on Earth, that the fanbase needs time to build, and that's fine:
The Nets have had a perfectly acceptable first season in Brooklyn, even if you wonder if Mikhail Prokhorov is gonna freak out and fire everybody if they lose in the playoffs, and Barclays Center has been mostly full all year. It still doesn't feel like a real fanbase yet, though. There aren't a lot of old New Jersey fans who have crossed over -- though as an Arizona Cardinals fan who came with them from St. Louis, I can appreciate those who did -- and many of the fans are affluent Brooklynites just flattered their artisanal cheeses and diaper elimination communication are being recognized on a national level. (Or people who just spend the game looking for Jay-Z.)
There's no history with this team, no inherent deep connection, and the arena feels like it. Barclays Center is a lovely place to watch a game, but it's not a kinetic place to experience one yet; by design, you feel like you're watching a theater production, like you're being held at considerable remove. That can be overcome by an engaged, fiery fanbase, of course, but the Nets are too new for that. It's a tourist attraction at this point, a crowd enjoying themselves in a welcoming environment, but not banded together in a collective froth.
I've been at playoff games at both Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center this week, and, needless to say, the difference between the MSG crowd and the Barclays crowd is roughly analogous to a trash metal concert and your fourth-grader playing his recorder. Both crowds are sellouts, with every seat filled, but one fanbase has decades of built-up anticipation, of pain and Isiah and gravitas, and the other is just having a good time at a pretty building.
Nets fans will get there, just like Nationals fans will get there. The franchises have too much going for them not to eventually join the same tortured fanbases as everybody else's. But forgive me if I find myself siding with fans of the Knicks, or the Warriors, or the Orioles, the ones who have been going through this for years and hoping now, at last, is the time to break through. If the Nats and Nets don't win the way they expect to this year, it'll be good for their fans in the long run. The more you lose now, and the tougher the losses are, the better it'll feel later. Being a sports fan about pain, and release. You know, like being a human.