Season ticket holder and The Brooklyn Game contributor Andrew Gnerre attended the first playoff basketball game in Brooklyn Nets history. Here's what he had to say.
It’s weird how much I cared about these free shirts. Then, after waiting on an extra slow line to get in (the security ramped back up to pre-Streisand pace, for obvious unfortunate reasons), I wasn’t handed one and was grumpy immediately.
It’s just that after enduring all the posturing and promises from the billion-dollar owner and his number one marketing goon on their way from East Rutherford to Newark to Brooklyn, I felt the fans who made it here deserved one shirt. Put an ad on it, I don't care. Put 15 ads on it. Just please, give me an oversized shirt that I'll probably never wear again so I can put it over whatever clothes I'm already wearing and cheer like a maniac for three hours. But nope. No shirts at the door. They don't respect the fans enough...
Oh right. The shirts are on the chairs. OK, never mind, I'm good. Thanks Brett and Mikhail!
I didn’t get to my seat much before 8:00, as it’s really hard to mobilize a dozen people who’ve been drinking all day. But I managed, because I have a strong will and great management skills. Our seats were in 214, which was close to empty and stayed that way through the entire game. From our perch, this seemed to be the only section with more than 10 empty seats. But we didn't have time to ponder this oddity because the National Anthem was about to begin. (By the way, this is an amazing way to watch a game—having a section mostly to yourselves in an otherwise-full arena.)
Seeing Jerry Stackhouse perform the National Anthem in person will go down as one of my most cherished sports memories. It was a confluence of circumstances that resulted in a stunning and moving rendition. The crowd adored it, despite all the dust or ash or something that all of a sudden started irritating our eyes by the end. It's something that building management will have to check out. As he hit the last note, Stack was jumped by a few teammates. The team seemed loose, the crowd seemed loose and Mikhail seemed loose as he took the mic to welcome the crowd and spout some of his hard-to-understand goofy weirdness.
Then, the Nets returned to the playoffs -- and they brought all the trimmings with them. Remember high-fiving every single person around you, even if they're strangers (especially if they're strangers)? Yeah, that's back now. Remember standing up after your team forces a turnover, and then erupting when they convert the fast-break bucket on the other end? Remember "DE-FENSE!" chants that start on the first possession and don't stop until the Nets have blown the game wide open? Remember noticing fans of the other team, not because they're drowning out the Nets supporters but because they're the anomaly? Remember watching as the other coach takes his first step onto the court and the other point guard dribbles to the sideline and going bananas because the Nets just forced the opponent into taking another timeout?
Remember how loud "Let’s go Nets!" can be?
Remember how your ears and arms and head and feet buzz when you're leaving the arena in one big mass of happy people? Remember smiling for the entire trip home? Remember the day-after hangover of wanting to soak up every bit of anything about the game last night -- watching the highlight package every time it’s on, reading every story written, looking at the box score just one more time because you need to see if the numbers match up with your memory? Remember watching other playoff matchups and wondering how the Nets would match up with them in the next round?
Well, the Nets brought all these things back. And if you're a Nets fan who doesn't remember these things -- because you're too young or new to the team or whatever -- you're in for a treat. Because these are the reasons we put up with all the other stuff. This is why so many of us stuck around after 12-70.
Saturday night was the moment. A celebration. The resolution of all the promises of the past six years. They kept telling us that Brooklyn would be better. And so far it had been, but only because we all knew it was supposed to be better. Fans were acting on the assumptions being fed to us by billboards and hashtags. For most of this first season, the Nets were more marketing campaign—a stellar one, to be sure—than basketball team.
But on Saturday night, they finally became Brooklyn's basketball team, and not just because that's what it says on your t-shirt.