For the first time in a lifetime of attending live sporting events, stadium traffic was a non issue. In fact, the five block walk from my apartment in Fort Greene to the Barclays Center to watch the Brooklyn Nets take on the Indiana Pacers was a much anticipated joy.
The futuristic design of the arena's rusted steel shell is reflected on the inside as well. But with blocky, bold, Area-51 style fonts and angular weaving of the upper level hallways, it comes with a slightly colder feeling. Thankfully, every staff member working inside this space ship, from the ticket takers to the vendors, were as smooth, warm and welcoming as the staff at a small town independent coffee shop.
And there are many local food options serving up their specialties on all levels of the arena. Some of my day to day favorites, like the Cubano Sandwich at Habana Outpost, were available, but at a slightly higher price.
There are ample opportunities to purchase some of, or tons of, the hot new black and white Brooklyn Nets Gear, by which this black and white tour was inspired.
New York photography and video megastore B+H has a step and repeat setup where fans can have their picture taken in front of the Nets backdrop.
From the elevator heading to the upper level one can see, and long for, the catered food options available on the suites level. Whatever. Not jealous. This level, and the 100, were the only sections in the arena with empty seats, most likely because of the $200-$800 price tag. (Our upper deck seats were $22 plus the Ticketmaster charge.)
Now the fun stuff. The place was absolutely rocking. So much so that it was hard to imagine it was a "Nets game," as the nation's basketball fans have traditionally yawned. A bass blasting sound system played one hip hop hit after another, many from homegrown artists. ("Is Brooklyn in the house?") Pride overflowed. Lifelong Brooklynites, from little jersey-wearing kids to old timers covered in so much Nets gear they would probably buy a Nets logoed hearing aide, cheered as much for Brooklyn as they did the team and its newfound life.
The energy of the fans was fueled by the enthusiastic Nets announcer, David Diamante, whom the New York Times featured in a piece titled "Nets Announcer Shows Flair and Hair." (a shout out to his mid back length dreadlocks.) When Diamante felt that a particular cheer was lacking he let the fans know. "Really, Brooklyn? I said, "Let's hear it!"" Most endearing, he calls the names of the opposing players who score with the same enthusiasm as a flu victim sick in bed for weeks. "Tyler..............Hansbrough" (roll over in bed and take a swig of Nyquil.) The juxtaposition is simply divine.
The Brooklynettes dancers entertained the crowd with fast paced routines including "Mama Said Knock You Out" but it was the Nets Kids Dancers who stole the show. Put them up against any kids dance team in the country and they will out swag on a whole other level, hands down.
And the fans were into it. BIG TIME!
Especially Mr. Whammy, Bruce Reznick, a 77-year-old lawyer who has been putting the hex on Nets opponents for 15 years. Who wouldn't want Mr. Whammy to represent them in court?
The one downside to the experience came at halftime when foot traffic in the narrow upper level hallways did its best Times Square at rush hour impression and became a congested mess of people in lines, people hanging out and people just trying to pass by.
But then it was back to the seats and the second half went on with ever increasing energy and enjoyment.
The team pulled out a win tonight. And as I walked home with my wife, watching throngs of other fans doing the same, I couldn't help but think that it was a win for the borough as well. There has been controversy and yes, there are broader economic issues at hand. But, for this resident of Fort Greene able to walk to a world class arena and cheer on an NBA team alongside thousands of passionate fans, the Barclays Center has certainly been a nice addition to the neighborhood.