What happens when a sports franchise skips town, and no one notices?
You’ll find out tonight when the Nets tip off against the Philadelphia 76ers in New Jersey.
You see, tonight will likely be the last professional basketball game ever to be played in the Garden State. But unlike the countless stories of brutal, ugly divorces that scar both town and team forever (Brooklyn and the Dodgers, Baltimore and the Colts, Cleveland and the original Browns, Houston and the Oilers) no tears will be shed when the final buzzer sounds tonight in Jersey.
So what gives? How could a state as proud as Jersey, with a monumental Napoleon complex (or would it be a Joe Pesci complex?) lie down and forfeit what should be their crown jewel to the big, bad city?
Perhaps it stems from the fact that the moving trucks will have to travel roughly the same distance from Newark to Brooklyn as they did when the team moved from East Rutherford to Newark two years ago. Maybe it’s because it can be tough for basketball fans to notice the Nets as they stand in the deep, dark shadow of their cross-river rivals the Knicks. You might even be able to blame the Devils, the Nets’ more popular (and more successful) arena mates for watering down the passion of the state’s already crowded sports scene.
But I think that most likely its because for the vast majority of their 35 years in New Jersey the Nets have downright stunk.
Sure we had those magical Jason Kidd years which included back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships. But overall this has been a star-crossed franchise that traded Dr. J, that lost the great Dražen Petrović in a tragic car crash, that never seemed to be able to make that one game changing move whether it be Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard.
Whatever the reason, the relationship between “town” and team never really gelled. New Jerseyans were never especially proud of the Nets, and the Nets weren’t exactly enamored with Jersey either. And now, like jilted lovers, the Nets have bolted for greener pastures: namely their own brand new arena, in New York’s largest borough.
Most importantly, however, no matter who is (and who is not) on the roster, the Nets will at last be welcomed as heroes into Brooklyn which has dreamed of having a professional franchise to call their own since their beloved Dodgers broke their hearts back in 1957.
In the end, the true New Jersey Nets fans will follow them through a tunnel and over a bridge, to a place that will finally embrace them and be proud of them. It is certain that the move is a step forward for the franchise, and even as a Jersey guy, that’s something I’m happy about.
So while the futility of the franchise will likely follow them into their new home, tonight closes the book on one of the worst eras of one of the worst franchises in major sports.
From here there is nowhere to go but up… or across the river.
Now, for one last time: LETS GO NJ NETS!