Cutting the Nets Down in Jersey
by Mike Trivella | University of Notre Dame
There is a certain song written by Billy Joel that starts out with the line “I’ve seen the lights go out on Broadway.” The lyrics of the song and the melody give it the tone of a song used to commemorate the ending of an era. I still remember the first time I heard the song my junior year of high school. Our football coach always played classic rock on the radio when we were lifting, and the day after President Obama was elected Q104.3 in New York played the tune. Perhaps it was merely a coincidence, or maybe rock radio hosts are generally Republican, but for me it sounded the end of George W. Bush’s era.
Now, as I write this article, the New Jersey Nets have played their final game in New Jersey, and the song instantly entered into my consciousness upon realization of that fact. Last night’s loss to the Philadelphia 76ers is not all that noteworthy, an 18 point loss to a team wrapping up the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot, a game where the team’s star Daron Williams was missing with an injury and where the Prudential Center was sold out in name only. Sure, there were to be some ex-Net greats at the game last night, but in the end the Nets went out with an only partly noticeable whimper. So long New Jersey, hello Brooklyn.
I can still remember the first time my dad took me to my first NBA game. We drove up the New Jersey Turnpike, and arrived in that arena in the middle of the Meadowlands that we will always fondly know as Continental Airlines Arena. Did the Nets win that first game? Of course not. They were playing the Lakers, and they got pounded. However, just being at a professional game and watching basketball live was a great experience. From then on, whenever my friends and I played pickup mini-hoops in the driveway, there was always a fight to see who would get the honor of pretending to be Kerry Kittles and Keith van Horn.
I also remember those two glorious years of 2002 and 2003, were the Nets were led by such heroes as Jason Kidd, Kittles, van Horn, Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin and progressed to two straight NBA Championships, the first against Kobe and Shaq and the second against the Spurs dream team of the mid 2000’s. While we did indeed lose both those series, the Nets were the pride of New Jersey.
Being a resident of the Garden State, it is always hard to get out from underneath the shadow of the big city to the immediate east, but during those two years the Nets gave New Jerseyans and New Jerseyans alone a team they could root for and take pride in, unlike the certain teams that play in the Meadowlands now and say they are from New York. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Giants, but it would be nice to get a little more credit for actually hosting the NFL’s reigning Super Bowl champion every now and then.
After those two glorious years, the team began its inevitable descent into obscurity. Even with the arrival of Vince “Vinsanity” Carter, horrible injuries to the team’s stars and consecutive run-ins with the Wade-Shaq duo in Miami marked the beginning of the end for the mini dynasty, which culminated in an absolutely abysmal 2009-10 season where the team finished with a 12-70 record.
Now, when my friends from home talk about the Nets, it is not so much of a thing of pride as a thing of derision.
How soon people seem to have forgotten about the glory days of a decade; when I think about the Nets now, all I think of is a team of scrubs (minus Daron Williams, but then again he plays like doesn’t want to be there) playing in a half empty arena, while Ian Eagle tries so desperately to make the game appear as if it is actually important to anyone outside the confines of the Prudential Center.
But it is too depressing to end on such a down note. While the successful years for the Nets franchise may have been limited, for 35 years the Nets gave us New Jerseyans a thing to call our own, something that those stuck-up New Yorkers across the Hudson could not take away. For a minute there, we were even better than the Knicks and were the Kings of the Eastern Conference.
In this light, as a final salute to the New Jersey Nets before they sell out and move to Brooklyn of all places, and New Jerseyans have to pretend to root for the New York Knicks, here is a tribute to the Nets, Billy Joel style.
I’ve seen the lights go out on Broad Street.
I saw the Garden State laid low.
And life went on beyond the Parkway.
Jay-Z and Prokhorov bought us out, and left here long ago.
They’re moving our concert out to Brooklyn.
Beyond where the Hudson River flows.
It’s there that the Nets will play,
Once they have gone away,
But in Jersey we will forever know.
Thank you for thirty-five great years in our beloved Garden State.Mike Trivella is currently a junior at the University of Notre Dame. Majoring in Accounting and minoring in Philosophy, Mike splits his time between classes, working out with friends, balancing debits & credits, pondering the true essence of the universe, and as always watching the New York Football Giants.