Welcome to Brooklyn’s Finest


Photo by Flickr user shizukokato

Don’t believe what you’ve read. Brooklyn isn’t solely filled with bespeckled, plaid-decked millennial hipsters equipped with artisanal cheese cloths and custom-painted synthesizers, trawling the land for the trendiest place to brunch and lamest band to make fun of. Not simply because Brooklyn is a century-plus old borough with loads of history that existed long before the popularity of the fixed gear bicycle, but because the modern Brooklyn is such a diverse, sprawling space home to hundreds of thousands of people spread across dozens of unique neighborhoods, many of whom would never be found on an episode of “Girls.”

I bring this up because I’m also an outsider to Brooklyn, having spent most of my life in Chicago before moving out here after graduating college. Along the way, I’ve thought a lot about the nature of relocation and how the modern transplant can avoid becoming an ungrateful interloper insensitive and uncaring of his surroundings, because there’s more to calling oneself a Brooklynite than living in Brooklyn.

Basic civic duty, such as patronizing local businesses, attending community meetings, actually talking to your neighbors, and so forth—those things are important. But there are other things that can drive shared interest between strangers, and sports—with their power to inspire emotion and unite like-minded individuals—are one of those engines.

Surely, the owners of the Brooklyn Nets had something like this in mind when they relocated the team from Newark to Atlantic Yards. Our blog name comes from one of them, Jay-Z, who owns just a percentage of a percent but most embodies the “Brooklyn above all” ethos that the team tried to cultivate by specifically taking aim at the idea that the New York Knicks were the biggest game in town. There hasn’t been a team in Brooklyn since the Dodgers, and there’s a particular onus on them to succeed given the messiness in securing the rights to build the stadium—something that hasn’t escaped the criticism even though the construction is long over—and the hullabaloo over their importance to the borough. (If only Jay-Z could take a personal interest in everything!) But though the team has been around for less than a year, it’s already coded in the borough’s DNA. The renamed subway station announcing exactly where the Barclays Center is; the proliferation of local businesses represented amongst the stadium’s food vendors; the slick black-and-white color scheme that’s cooler than cool—they’re natural extensions of the neighborhood, and will seem more and more normal as time goes on.

All of the gourmet hot dogs in the world wouldn’t matter if the team wasn’t any good, though. Visualizing the local pandemonium that might ensue if the Nets won the title is fun enough. Figuring out how it might happen is another issue. The season is almost over, so we’ve gotten a little bit of perspective on how the team performs and might be expected to perform. So far? It’s a bit of a mixed bag. They’re currently in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, and have looked alternately dominant and hapless at different points throughout the year. But disappointment over P.J. Carlesimo’s rotation restlessness, Deron Williams’s fitness or the team’s defensive inconsistency should be partially mollified by a roster with plenty of legitimate pieces and an assertive ownership run by Mikhail Prokhorov that’s staked out a plain commitment to making sure the team succeeds.

Absent a tangible chance to win the championship this year, fans should be able to take solace in the next thing: being able to enjoy a competitive team backed by an attractive market and management acting in good faith.  This is admittedly an optimistic take, as a cynical eye could disregard “hoping for the best” as a good way to stay in the cellar. (I’m a Cubs fan, so I know how that works.) But what, really, does negativity accomplish but suck the fun out of something that’s meant to be play, not work? It bears repeating that winning and losing isn’t the only point of paying attention to sports, or else 99% of fanbases would be left permanently depressed at the end of the season as their team failed to win the championship.

That’s not to pretend that getting upset over a loss or personnel move isn’t a natural reaction. Still, Brooklyn’s Finest will endeavor to be an argument for caring rather than cynicism; for realism instead of pessimism; for respecting the fine line between being passionate and being unreasonable. There’ll be the typical day-to-day stuff—who got injured, what got said, why someone didn’t play, and so forth. There’ll be basketball analysis—duh!—talking about Brook Lopez’s interior defense and the function of Keith Bogans, among subjects. In the bigger picture, we’re going to feature a blend of original reporting and perspectives to explore why basketball isn’t just basketball—it’s culture, and there’s plenty to experience about Brooklyn by paying attention to the Nets. It’ll be a learning experience, but hopefully you’ll join us for the ride.

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