“They're gonna play 'The Addams Family,' this is America.”
It was the third quarter of the first Brooklyn Nets preseason game at Barclays Center, and I was dissecting DJ Enuff's choices with my friend Andrew, and longtime Nets fan/prisoner. It was a particularly cathartic moment because, several years ago, I had guided Andrew toward the Nets when he came to me asking where to lay his NBA allegiance. He was born into a baseball family, so had no team by birthright; he was from Los Angeles and he’s sensible enough not to be a Lakers fan and (in the pre-Blake era) not want to be a Clippers fan. He was in the rare position to rightfully claim whichever team he wanted. I pitched the Nets. And, in an atypical victory for the New Jersey squad, I won.
My friend was rudderless and I tossed him a not-yet-inflated life preserver with a hole in it—then tied weights to his feet and shouted something about Brooklyn as he drowned.
So when he and I crossed the threshold and entered Barclays for the (sort of first) Nets game in Brooklyn, my sigh of relief was tremendous. We made it.
I promise I won’t spend all season comparing the Brooklyn experience to Jersey, but boy is it tough right now. Because this is way different. Or rather, it will be way different. This first preseason game was a fascinating study of an arena —- in every sense of the word -- trying to shake off 35 years of stigma and grease on its way to becoming the premiere basketball happening in the world. In other words, it’s preseason.
First thing: The gear is everywhere. Everywhere. And the season hasn’t even started. This brings up yet another casualty for longtime Nets fans: individuality. Unless I’m told otherwise, I’ll always believe that my friend Andrew was the only living person to ever own an Antoine Wright Nets jersey. If it’s not true (and I bet it is), it’s at least not farfetched to believe. But in Brooklyn, you won’t ever be able to say you were the only Nets fan to do something regarding the team. Don’t mourn these odd badges of honor; solitude is no way to slog through fandom. In Brooklyn, there will always be someone who was where you were or saw what you saw or is wearing what you’re wearing. It’s a blessing, because not feeling alone is part of the reason anyone (at least subconsciously) becomes a fan, no?
But yeah, DJ Enuff played the “Addams Family” theme drop that the Nets have been using for years. After all the things from Jersey that the organization has scrubbed and filed down and re-branded, it was odd hearing this relic in the new digs. It evokes memories of half-empty arenas and fully empty hearts. But then again, barely any of the people at the game Monday night were ever inside the Prudential Center, let along Izod. For them (“them” being the new Nets fans, also known as “the majority of Nets fans”), the snapping refrain of the “Addams Family” theme will elicit memories of winning basketball games and high-fiving fellow fans (instead of the desolation and despair and carcasses that creep into my own warped brain when I hear the tune).
Similarly, the “allow me to reintroduce myself” drop from Hov's “Public Service Announcement,” which the Nets have also been using for several years now, finally intersected with reality in a way it never had before when it punctuated an Andray Blatche basket. All rebranded everything.
The crowd struggled early to find its legs, but goodness this place is going to be loud. And it was in certain spots, but there was no guidance, which this eager but nascent crowd actually could have used. “De-fense” chants started early, maybe on the first possession, but the crowd seemed uncertain about them, not sure if the chant was too naïve for a preseason game. They continued throughout, but never quite sustained. At one point late in the game, each side of the arena had its own chant going, creating a “De-fense!” to “De-fense!” call and response. It could actually be a cool effect if orchestrated correctly.
It will take some time to find the true rally cry. There was a strong number of “Let's go Brooklyn!” and you have to imagine “Let’s go Nets!” will pop up at some point, but Deron has stated his preference for the slower, more menacing “Broook-lyn!”
This last one really only works as a response, though, and was most appropriately unleashed late in the fourth amidst the Deron-A.J. Price donnybrook. It became clear that the intimidating “Broook-lyn” will be the go-to whenever there's a scuffle—the borough's forever-repped toughness bubbling to the surface. It really turned the tone of the room hostile in the very best way possible.
Even Mr. Whammy, the white-haired, red-dressed old man who forever curses the opposition’s free throw shooter from behind the basket, felt the growing pains. As he tried to assume his usual spot, standing about five feet behind the basket, a security guard wrapped him up and muscled him back to his seat. (He eventually made it back where he belonged.)
But while cheers were occasionally mismatched or too tepid, this building clearly has power in its chest. Already, it was way louder than Prudential ever got and nearing Meadowlands (or MSG for that matter) playoff level. Again, this was a preseason game against the Wizards. Just wait until Knicks get here.
November 1st is now a week away. Ready? Brooklyn almost is.