— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) May 2, 2014
Before Wednesday night’s Nets-Raptors game, Air Canada Centre put a graphic saying “Put Your Playoff Shirts On!” on the jumbotron, accompanied with a live shot of fans who weren’t wearing the white shirts splayed on their seats. Other Raptors Fans booed the fans until they were guilted into putting on the shirts. It was remarkable, in that it turned thousands of fans into your guilt-tripping mom and dad.
The arena was electric throughout, starting with an arena-wide performance of the Canadian National Anthem and buzzing throughout the game. It was so good that the Nets Twitter account (in the midst of takeover by Lenn Robbins) told Nets fans to “take notes” on how good the crowd had been in Toronto. It enraged the die-hards (who clearly aren’t the fans Robbins was talking about) and prompted a response from the team on the same account.
But the Nets will give out free t-shirts tonight, and that could change everything.
Free t-shirts help make a fanbase, especially in the playoffs. The Oklahoma City Thunder, who like the Nets were new to a market just a few years ago, have given out free t-shirts for every game they’ve ever played in the playoffs, and their fans come rabid and strong. It’s a stronger statement than towels — towels get put away and taken out at random times, which sets a stage of confusion and disarray. The all-white background comes off much stronger. That’s not the only promotion — there will be a 25% discount at concessions (food only) from when the doors open at 5:30 to 6:00 — but it’s the biggest one.
Fans come to the arena to watch basketball, for whatever reason they want to watch sports. Drama, gamesmanship, strategy, whatever goads you. The Nets give away the good stuff — in this case, t-shirts — to create an atmosphere of unified wonder, of being a part of something. It releases the dopamine in your brain that can’t be replicated elsewhere. Then you chase that feeling for life.
It’s like drug dealing, except the drug is basketball, and you won’t end up face-down in an alley because you’re a fan. Probably.
Tipoff at 7 P.M. EST.