When I woke up Saturday morning, I was still in a fight with my girlfriend. The worst. So I made breakfast and turned on the 2002 Nets-Pacers game that lives on my DVR. Keith Van Horn put his hand on my shoulder. "Just give her a call. This'll be fine." Aaron Williams grabbed an offensive rebound. I felt better. Yeah, things will be fine.
Sports don’t matter, but they can help.
Later that Saturday night -- five days after hurricane Sandy decimated much of the area -- the Nets were scheduled to play their rescheduled home opener against the Raptors. In the shadow of the storm, this seemed dumb. Many people were still without power, without heat and without any dry possessions. But the game was a go, now reframed as a salve instead of celebration. Again, sports don’t matter, but they can help.
And how did the Nets plan on making fans forget about the destruction that lay outside of the Barclays’ walls? By unveiling a new, insane-looking mascot. Unfurl the “Mission Accomplished” banner! Four more years! Yes we can! Sly is dead and the BrooklyKnight is alive!
Even if the BrooklyKnight had descended from the ceiling holding Sly's severed head, no one would have noticed because oh my god this dude is the craziest looking thing to ever touch an NBA court. Look at him. Drink it in. Believe.
I swear, that is something that happened before an NBA game in 2012. Watch it again. I know! Jay-Z and Beyonce had to look at this dude and now he takes up real estate in their millionaire brains right next to their ATM pins and brunches at The Spotted Pig and Obama fundraising galas. If I ever meet either of them, this mascot is the first thing I will ask them about.
Nets executives, listen: You're going to hear a lot of negative feedback regarding the new mascot. Do not listen. You just introduced the goofiest thing ever affiliated with an NBA team. You put chain nets around his shoulders and metal kneepads on his legs? Brilliant. You like those helmets Daft Punk wear? Me too. And he's just wearing some real plain sneakers with floppy laces? He's the best. You have gifted Nets fans a mascot we can trust. You either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become some dude with a shiny face. With great power comes great responsibility; the Nets took this responsibility and turned it into something very dazzling and bizarre. Thank you. Facebook commenter Ian Rioan puts it best: “Cool, but I miss Sly. He was great. I'm sure the Knight will be cool too.” I’m sure he will be, Ian.
But in all honesty, having a mascot for a team that has Reggie Evans on the roster seems redundant.
Before tip-off, Deron, Brook and Wallace traded jerseys with Brooklyn Dodgers Ralph Branca and Joe Pignatano and Gil Hodges's son, Gil Hodges Jr. It seemed neat for some people. David Stern took the mic and was booed, because the fine people of Brooklyn know what you’re supposed to do when David Stern is holding a microphone. It also made for a sweet moment when Deron rushed to put his arm around the commissioner to try and calm the masses. Unfortunately, I don’t know what Stern or Deron or Marty Markowitz said because the speakers on my side of the arena weren’t working all night. It was most likely a result of the storm and a small reminder of reality outside.
Then, the game happened, but Devin has covered that better than I can. What I can comment on, though, is the fans. Again, they were loud and passionate and a bit disjointed. (Except for the lady sitting in seat 1, row 16, section 209. You were rude. Sometimes other people in your row need to walk past you. This happens in every row of every arena at every single sporting event in the world, not just yours. When people are polite about moving past you, then you should be polite back. Otherwise, stay home.) The moment following tip-off, the crowd died for a moment. It seemed like a collective moment of panic: “Oh my god, the Brooklyn Nets are playing a real game. What do we do?” But then we all figured it out and screamed a bunch throughout the night. It was fun! Then that “Broooook-lyyyyyn” hymn started raining down as the game was inching closer to a Nets win. This thing works. It’s a wonderfully cocky send off, a celebratory eff you to the visiting team. Even Bey likes it. The Brooklyn Nets are undefeated.
On the bus back though New Jersey, you still see a lot of darkness, a reminder of all the houses and towns without power. All of us in the New Jersey/New York area, even those of us who weren’t directly harmed by the storm (especially us), have a lot of work ahead to restore normalcy. Sports are kind of a waste of time and resources. Those free shuttles that the Nets provided -- that I used to get to Barclays, and loved -- probably should have been offered to people who needed to get to work or to bring supplies to Breezy Point or Staten Island or Moonachie. But they weren’t. Maybe this game should have been postponed as well, but it wasn’t. Instead, a few thousand people got to ignore reality for a few hours and focus on dumb things like Brook Lopez’s lumbering efficiency and Beyonce’s bangs. A professional basketball game won’t rebuild any houses, but it does provide some respite from real life for a minute. It’s not the most noble or necessary thing in the world, but at least it comforted a few people. And honestly, what is the BrooklyKnight trying to do out there if not comfort the citizens?