Barclays Center: A tale of two cities

I finally made it to a Brooklyn Nets game last month. I have been a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan for several years, but I hadn’t made the trek to Brooklyn yet, largely due to becoming a father and moving to Basking Ridge, N.J.


Barclays Center

Overall, I thought Barclays Center was impressive. I have not been to Madison Square Garden since its overhaul, so I can’t compare the two buildings, but on its own merits, Barclays Center is visually stunning, and you couldn’t ask for a better location. Walter O’Malley really fucked up by moving the Dodgers from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, as the new Ebbets Field would have been on the same site.

Barclays Center is located in an actual neighborhood, unlike the Nets’ temporary home at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., where the area is still in the developing stages, or the Izod Center, which is in the middle of a God-forsaken swamp. The mass-transit options are plentiful, which is a good thing, because parking is not.

The overall look is modern and sleek, and the sightlines are gorgeous. The arena comes across very well both in person and on television.

However, I have one major issue with Barclays Center, which is the same issue I have with the new Yankee Stadium, MetLife Stadium, and probably pretty much every stadium or arena that opened its doors recently: The difference between the lower level and the upper level is gigantic, and Barclays Center is the most prominent example of this trend that I’ve seen so far.

All of the new facilities are following the same blueprint: Let’s cram a whole bunch of club areas and suites into the middle, and push the upper deck way up and way back. Fuck the poor and middle class!

The lower level of Barclays Center is palatial. The concourse looks like the lobby and shopping area of a Las Vegas hotel, and I’m talking about Caesar’s Palace, not Circus Circus. The concourse is well-lit and wide, with a staggering number of choices for food and beer, and a generous collection of bar tables for fans to use if they want to eat and drink prior to going to their seats.

After seeing the lower level, the upper level reminded me of the steerage section of the Titanic. The concourse was narrow and dark, and the choices were greatly reduced.

I am not a seat snob in the least. I practically lived in the upper deck of the old Yankee Stadium. I have never minded sitting higher up, as I have always been more concerned with a central location (home plate, 50-yard-line, center court).

But if someone gave me free tickets to a Brooklyn Nets game, and they were in the upper level, I would graciously decline and watch the game at home. The upper level is several feet higher and several feet further from the court, and even the best seats in the upper level pretty much suck.

My New Jersey Nets season tickets at Brendan Byrne Arena/Continental Airlines Arena/Izod Center were in the second row of the upper level, right on the center court stripe. The equivalent seats at Barclays Center were like sitting in the very top rows of the old arena. To be blunt, the seats absolutely sucked, and those were the best in the upper level.

And this is the reason why, although I am still a die-hard Nets fan, and I still follow the team religiously and watch as many games as I can, the odds of my attending more than one or two games per season are slim to none. It’s not worth going to a game unless you sit in the lower level, and the ticket prices in the lower level are beyond prohibitive.

I was fortunate enough to win my company’s tickets in a drawing. Without trying to sound like I’m spitting on a gift, the seats were decent, but certainly nowhere near the best in the house. They were about 20 rows up, which is great, but they were also behind the baseline, which isn’t bad when play is happening at the near basket, but makes it very difficult to follow action on the other end of the court. The face value of those tickets: $190 apiece. Seriously? There’s no way those tickets are worth $190 apiece. And if that’s what it takes to sit somewhere decent in Barclays Center, thank God for my 50-inch flat-screen TV.

The LeBron James aftermath, part 2: The Nets can shove the Blueprint for Greatness up their asses

Even the most committed and knowledgeable of sports fans can make errors in judgment when it comes to evaluating moves by their favorite teams. Every sports fan has been guilty of it, and those who claim otherwise are full of shit. Until this past week, my own personal worst mistake as a sports fan was being totally and completely irate when the New York Yankees traded Roberto Kelly to the Cincinnati Reds for Paul O’Neill prior to the 1993 season. Kelly turned out to be a journeyman outfielder who only lasted a few more seasons, while O’Neill was my favorite Yankee from Memorial Day 1993 through his retirement after the 2001 World Series.

Blueprint for Greatness

But now, I can safely say that my biggest error in judgment as a sports fan was my happiness over the 21,375-square-foot Blueprint for Greatness billboard the Nets painted across the street from Madison Square Garden, featuring new owner Mikhail Prokhorov and part-owner and hip-hop legend Jay-Z.

When I first read about the idea. I was ecstatic. I hate the New York Knicks with a deep, intense passion, and putting this huge billboard up right across the street from the arena was like spitting in their faces. I constantly reposted updates on the massive project’s progress, just to tweak my friends who root for the New York Bricks. But now that the dust has settled, this was a really stupid, sophomoric, juvenile idea that makes the Nets look like even more of a joke than they’ve historically been perceived to be.

Unless, that is, you can find someone who sincerely believes that taking aim at LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer, Rudy Gay, Tyrus Thomas and David Lee, and then ending up with Travis Outlaw, Johan Petro and, if the Golden State Warriors pass on matching an offer sheet, Anthony Morrow constitutes a “Blueprint for Greatness.” That person should immediately be cut off by bartenders and drug dealers, as they’ve clearly lost touch with reality.

Johan Petro? Really? The only Petro who would help the Nets is sadly no longer among the living.

I’m not angry at the Nets’ organization for its approach this offseason. From everything I’ve read, they made the best possible effort in all of their meetings with free agents, and things just didn’t work out their way. Nor can anyone be blamed for the fact that despite finishing 12-70 last season, the NBA Lottery process bent the Nets over and screwed them without buying them dinner first, leaving the team with pick No. 3 in a draft that boasted two great players. Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong, but I don’t think it was lack of effort or a poor approach.

But for the love of God, please paint over that fucking billboard. It’s beyond childish at this point. This team will be lucky to win 30 games next season, which won’t exactly ender it to the next class of free agents, either. This organization is in no position to taunt any other organization — even the overrated, worthless, piece-of-shit Knicks.

The LeBron James aftermath, part 1: Knicks fans and the media are delusional

Now that the most-anticipated free-agent pursuit in sports history has come to an end, with LeBron James’ signing with the Miami Heat, I have to say that I am amazed by the anger and sense of entitlement coming from the New York Knicks organization and fans, as well as the New York media.


Full disclosure: I am a die-hard New Jersey Nets fan, and I absolutely despite the Knicks. I am not happy with the Nets right now, either, but I will address that in a separate post.

But some of the comments I read after LeBron’s decision was announced were downright ignorant.

First off, even though the Knicks may have planned the past two seasons based on clearing salary-cap money to pursue LeBron, Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh, someone please find me a quote from LeBron saying, “I will be a New York Knick.” Knicks fans and the media acted like they were left at the altar. LeBron never made a commitment to the Knicks, yet he was referred to as a traitor on many occasions. Am I missing something?
Cleveland fans have the right to feel left at the altar, and it has to be horrible for them to see a local product (Akron is close enough to Cleveland for LeBron to qualify as local) raise the Cavaliers from the dead, only to leave them for dead. Knicks fans, on the other hand, need to shut the fuck up.

I think one of the reasons why I hate the Knicks as much as I do is the overinflated sense of importance that flows from the top of the organization all the way down to the fans. The Knicks portray themselves as one of the signature franchises in the National Basketball Association, and they think of Madison Square Garden as a basketball mecca. Why?

The Knicks last won the NBA championship in 1973, when I was five years old. Since then, the Knicks have been to two NBA Finals, including one that was a total fluke, when they only squeaked into the playoffs as a No. 8 seed because of a lockout-shortened season, and they only beat the No. 1 seed Heat because of a lucky chuck and heave toward the basket by Allan Houston, one of the most overrated shooting guards in the history of the league. During the same time period, the Nets, often ridiculed as lower-class citizens, have been to the same number of NBA Finals: two. And the Nets earned both appearances.

Plus, the Nets’ run of success was much more recent. Just a few short years ago, 2006-07, the Nets beat a tough Toronto team four games to two in the first round, and then lost a hard-fought series to , coincidentally, LeBron and the Cavaliers, four games to two. The Knicks, meanwhile, have not been to the postseason since 2003-04, when they needed to remove brooms from their asses after being swept by the Nets.

Let’s face it: The New York Bricks haven’t been relevant since game seven of the 1993-94 NBA Finals, when John Starks, another vastly overrated bum, shot 2-for-18 and handed the Larry O’Brien Trophy to the Houston Rockets.

Yet Knicks management, fans and media parade around acting like it would be a privilege for any NBA player to join their sacred team and play on the sacred hardwood of Madison Square Garden. Seriously? Why?

Stop all of your fucking crying already. LeBron isn’t coming here. Deal with it. Other than people who are part of the Miami Heat organization or fans of that club, no one is happy with the decision LeBron made. But stop acting like your team was entitled to anything. The Knicks are NOT a model franchise. They are a sad joke, and they suck.

There used to be a ballpark, part II

Anybody who knows me already knows quite well how I feel about the destruction of the real Yankee Stadium. While the new Yankee Stadium has definitely grown on me, watching the old ballpark being torn down feels like losing a family member. I still can’t digest the idea that Box 611 no longer exists.

What was left of the real Yankee Stadium on Opening Day

When you’re younger, you think everything will last forever, including ballparks. Then as you move on in life, you come to the sad realization that nothing is forever.

The wounds of Yankee Stadium are still fresh. Even though the Yankees christened the new ballpark with a World Series championship, the skeletal remains of the real ballpark are still looming.

The past couple of weeks have brought the beginnings of a new baseball season, but also two more endings related to my favorite teams: Texas Stadium, the former home of the Dallas Cowboys, was imploded (see below). And while the building isn’t going anywhere just yet, the New Jersey Nets played their last game at the IZOD Center (formerly known as the Continental Airlines Arena, Brendan Byrne Arena and the Meadowlands Arena), as the team is finally taking my advice and moving to Newark, allegedly for two years while the Barclays Center in Brooklyn is being built, but, as I’ve said repeatedly, I’ll believe the team is moving to Brooklyn when I see a building.

The New Jersey Nets thank all 27 of their fans

Neither building means anywhere near as much to be as the real Yankee Stadium did.

I only went to two Cowboys games in Texas Stadium and, as magnificent as the new Cowboys Stadium looks on TV, it’s still weird not seeing the ugly but familiar building I grew up watching on TV.

And while the New Jersey Nets’ best two seasons as a franchise came at the IZOD Center (then Continental Airlines Arena), the building itself had very little character and, thanks to the Nets’ piss-poor fan base, even less atmosphere.

Still, it’s bizarre to see three buildings that were part of my fabric as a sports fan disappear (I know the IZOD Center is still standing, but Disney on Ice is not a sport, and the Devils, Nets and Seton Hall are all gone). Nothing is forever and, sometimes, change is good, but that doesn’t make it any less jarring or weird.

Jayson Williams … WTF?

I am one of the 23 or so living New Jersey Nets fans and, before the team’s brief period of actually being somewhat relevant under the leadership of Jason Kidd, my favorite player was Jayson Williams.

Jayson Williams

Jayson Williams

Ironically, I also root for a college team that has long been forgotten by most of the country: the St. John’s Red Storm. Back in the days before political correctness caused them to adopt that stupid-assed nickname, Williams also played for the St. John’s Redmen.

He was a nonentity for the Philadelphia 76ers for a while, then came to the Nets and mastered the art of rebounding. Williams was never particularly skilled either offensively or defensively, but he went after every rebound with ferocious effort and was, quite simply, a likeable guy.

His NBA career ended in a nasty collision with then-Nets point guard Stephon Marbury, which left the two of them writhing in pain on the floor of the Continental Airlines Arena (now the IZOD Center — sickening, I know). Williams got the worst of the impact, suffering injuries that doctors likened to those from a motorcycle crash. He tried to come back about a year-and-a-half later, but he just didn’t have the strength or explosiveness.

So one of the guys who was always among the more personable in the NBA did the next-best thing: He started working on NBC’s basketball telecasts. That came to a crashing halt, as well, but not due to injury — due to blatant stupidity.

For anyone who doesn’t remember the details of the case, Williams was playing around with a gun in his house and accidentally shot and killed the limo driver who had driven him and a few other people home. Then he tried to cover it up, making matters worse.

On the one hand, there’s a big difference to me between deliberately pulling the trigger and an accident. But on the other hand, the driver’s friends and family lost a loved one due to complete idiocy, and Williams deserves whatever happens to him in the retrial, as much as I hate saying that about a guy whom I’ve always been a huge fan of.

Unfortunately, things only seem to be getting worse. Williams’ wife filed for divorce, and both that case and the retrial of the limo-driver case are due to start soon, and everything must have gotten to the guy. He was removed from a Manhattan hotel room by police and is being held for observation after being described as suicidal.

I know Williams is far from perfect and has done several more bone-headed things that I didn’t even bother to touch upon, but it’s still sad to see someone whom I was such a huge fan of, and whom I believe is a good person deep down, become such a mess. I’m still rooting for him but, rather than rooting for him to grab a rebound, I’m rooting for him to somehow turn his life around. I am not, however, rooting for him to be exonerated in the limo-driver case. As I said, he deserves whatever he gets in that case.

This sucks. Speedy recovery, No. 55.

Three is the tragic number

The New Jersey Nets have to be the worst team in NBA history at defending the three-point shot, and I’d really love to know why.

I’d love feedback from someone who knows more about basketball than I do. For once, I’m not being sarcastic, which is odd because sarcasm usually seeps from the pages of this blog.

I consider myself a fairly knowledgeable basketball fan, but I never played organized ball, so I haven’t picked up any of the coaching wisdom that covers my question.



I just watched the Nets get completely outplayed by the San Antonio Spurs, and Matt Bonner was one of the main reasons. Matt Bonner has exactly one NBA skill: three-point shooting. So why in the name of God was Matt Bonner open all night?

If it sounds like I’m ripping Matt Bonner, I’m not. I’d love to have a guy like him on the Nets. He may have one NBA skill, but it’s a valuable one to have. It just frustrates me that the guy has one purpose on the court and the Nets continually allowed him to accomplish it.

Obviously, the Spurs have some great inside players, with Tim Duncan representing one of the best to ever set foot on a basketball court. But why was Bonner’s defender constantly leaving him wide open with enough to receive a pass, set his feet, examine the basketball, get a perfect grip, look at David Stern’s signature, check out the hot blonde sitting courtside, elevate (barely) and nail a three-pointer?

I love the Nets, but there are nights when they can be excruciating to watch, and tonight was one of them.

The Newark Nets: Why not?

I visited the Prudential Center in Newark — the new home of the New Jersey Devils — for the first time Saturday night for a kickass Metallica show, and I was very, very impressed by the arena.

Prudential Center

Prudential Center

It’s located only three blocks from a train station that serves New Jersey Transit, the PATH and Amtrak. Bars and restaurants are starting to spring up around it, including Brick City Bar & Grill, which had such good food and beer that we went there both before and after the show.

And once you get inside the arena, everything about it is comfortable. The walkways and concourses are nice and wide. There is a great selection of food and beer. The sight lines are great, and the arena has some character, instead of looking like a big bowl.

So can someone please explain why the New Jersey Nets continue to waste away at the IZOD Center (formerly Continental Airlines Arena, formerly Byrne Arena)? The place has absolutely no redeeming qualities.

The only public transportation to the Meadowlands is a New Jersey Transit bus from Manhattan. The parking situation sucks (in the interest of fairness, it’s probably not great in Newark, either, as one lot tried to charge my friend who drove $30 to park for Metallica). The food is prison-quality. The seating bowl has no character. And the building is just plain ugly.

And before anyone brings up the Nets’ “impending” move to Brooklyn, please silence yourself. This move is never, ever going to happen. There’s a better chance of a certain overweight 40-year-old under-six-foot blog-writing Jew with no basketball skills starting at point guard than there is for the Nets to ever bounce a ball in Brooklyn. The Atlantic Yards project is as dead as Sarah Palin’s political future. It would have been a fantastic move for the franchise, but it’s not happening. Accept this and deal with it.

For the love of God, please let the Nets move to Newark.

NBA officiating: And they call wrestling fake?

The referees in the National Basketball Association have become a complete joke, and this has nothing to do with the Tim Donaghy gambling scandal.

Favoritism toward the more popular players and teams has always, unfortunately, been a part of the game, but it’s getting worse and worse.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve had season tickets to the New Jersey Nets since the early 1990s. The Nets have never been a popular team, and Jason Kidd, traded to the Dallas Mavericks a couple of weeks ago, was really the only marquee player the franchise has had since the days of the ABA, the red-white-and-blue basketball, huge afros, the New York Nets and Dr. J, Julius Erving.

So am I bitter? Yes.

But think about it: Did Michael Jordan really need the benefit of the doubt on every single call to drop 50 on any given night? The great players don’t need the extra help. They can dominate the game on their own.

All I ask (and I know this is sheer fantasy) is for them to ignore the jerseys and uniform numbers and just call the game. If a foul is committed, call the foul. If there’s no contact, swallow the whistle.

If a player with five fouls clobbers someone in the lane, don’t ignore it or call the foul on a nearby player just to keep the offender in the game. A foul is a foul, period. Make the call based on what actually happened.

The defense I hear most often: “People pay good money to see Player X play. We can’t have Player X fouling out.” Well then, tell Player X not to maim people in the lane six times, and he can finish the game.

The money doled out by fans is also used as another sorry-assed excuse for why superstars get every single call, including many complete non-fouls that should never have been called at all. “People scalped tickets for $1,000 to see Michael Jordan play.” Maybe so, but did they pay $1,000 to see him soar through the lane between two people and slam one home, or to see him standing at the free-throw line?

And why should the home team get the benefit on calls? Home-court advantage refers to having the fans on your side, looking into a familiar shooting background and being comfortable in your environment. Home-court advantage should not mean getting the benefit of the doubt on every call and being on the right side of ticky-tack foul calls.

Am I asking that much? Call what you see, regardless of who’s involved, and let the players decide the game.

With some of the calls I’ve seen this season, Tim Donaghy being gone isn’t really making much of a difference.