Friday, January 11, 2013

Friday at Barclays

On a Friday last month, Matt Domino took in a Nets game at Barclays Center.

My mother is an extremely social person. Though I am by nature introverted, because of this fact I have found myself trying to be as outgoing and as sociable as I am capable. I make plans, throw parties and try to organize weekends with friends so that we can drink and make new jokes to take with us into the most mundane moments of our everyday lives. However, you can’t always be with friends, no matter how hard you try, and very often I find myself alone—most of the time by choice, as Ron Swanson would say, but other times just by circumstance.

On a Friday last month, because I try to be a social person, I sent out messages on a variety social media that I wanted to see the Brooklyn Nets play the Golden State Warriors at the Barclays Center. It was short notice for even the closest of friends, so I had no takers. In defense of everyone I know, you would have to be a true diehard NBA fan to want to go see the (at the time) formidable Brooklyn Nets play a likeable, young but fairly (at the time) unheralded Golden State team on a mild, drizzling Friday in New York City.

But I had the idea that I was going to see a live basketball game stuck in my head. Barclays Center had been sitting down the street from me for the first two months of the basketball season and I had not yet seen a Nets game, so when the Warriors, a team I had endorsed back in the summer as promising, came into town I knew that I had to go. I had to go because I had some artificial version of old-school Boston in my head; a vision of a twenty-something guy walking to the Boston Garden from his apartment on a whim to see basketball played at the highest level, drinking beer, stomping his feet with the rest of the crowd as some hardwood hero made the night memorable and then ambling out into the promise of a Friday night in an American city. I get these impalpable visions in my head and can’t let them go, so I have to make them happen, have to make them concrete, even if it is at the expense of company.

So, I got myself out of work early and entered into the damp December night. Though I had plenty of time to get to the game, I was filled with the post-work rush of a Friday. I urged myself down along Sixth Avenue, passing old women shuffling by Christmas tree stands and weaving in and out of pedestrian traffic. While stopped at street corners, I debonairly adjusted my peacoat flaps, flexed my jaw, cocked my eyebrow and did my best impression of a shadowy movie star because, well, this is New York after all.

I got on a downtown M train and transferred to the B at West 4th Street. The B was poorly lit and filled with the after work crowd. I stood in front of a smelly man with a beard who wore dirty jeans and a beat up Rangers Starter jacket. At Grand Street, the main contingent of the train’s occupants got off and proceeded on into their own, smoldering Chinatown evenings. The smelly man grumbled something and I nodded in agreement—we were both probably beat up in the same ways, even if we didn’t look the same. The B rode on until it exited Manhattan and rose above the East River on the trestle of the Manhattan Bridge. My phone came back to life and I had a voice message from one of my best friends who lives and works in a mill town in remote, rural Vermont and hates using his phone. I listened to the message and smiled, the smelly man watching me the whole time. When I was done listening, I shrugged my shoulders at him and before long the train had arrived at Atlantic Avenue.

I walked along with groups of people who I presumed were also going to the game. There was a woman who looked slightly like Uma Thurman walking with a man who was either her boyfriend or a guy trying to sleep with her and I couldn’t help but admire her. I ascended the stairs to face the Barclays center. People idled outside in pre-game meet-ups and I made my way to the will call and waited on line.

“The Stones play tomorrow night!” The line attendant yelled to no one in particular. “Tonight, you vote for your favorite NBA players.” He paused. “Carmelo! MVP!”

“Of what?” A guy behind me asked.

The line attendant laughed.

“The Knicks haven’t done anything yet,” the guy behind me said.

“What are you a Nets fan? Ride or die?”

The two of them got into the particulars of the young basketball season and I made my way inside and got a ticket at Will Call.

Barclays was just as shiny and friendly as it had been when I went to one of the first Jay-Z concerts there back in September. I found my seat in a nice, secluded corner section of the arena, got two large beers and a popcorn, which I carried with a delicate balance and grace, and settled in to watch a basketball game on a Friday with Jay-Z sitting firmly in his courtside seat across the arena from me.

I have a holistic love for the NBA. I follow the moves, personnel decisions and player stats of every team in the league, so I found it hard to muster up genuine enthusiasm for the Nets. In fact, I attended the game more due to my investment in the fortunes of the young Warriors, especially their rookie small forward Harrison Barnes. I’ve been a UNC fan since I was a child and Barnes has been an enticing prospect. He seems to have all the necessary athleticism and surface appearance to be an NBA star, they just hasn’t fully manifested as of yet, though there have been signs so far this season. Plus, the Warriors trot out a roster filled with likeable and talented players like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Jarret Jack, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli. Yet, I am a Brooklynite and I know how much their team, with established players like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brooke Lopez, means to the borough and to the city at large.

The game started and it was clear that Joe Johnson, who had and has been under-performing this season, was ready to play. He scored fifteen points in the first quarter, but it seemed like he had more than that. He made three-pointers, mid-range fadeaways, and expertly used his body to gain post position for flip shots in the lane. The pace of the game was fast and exciting and the crowd was into it.

One of the main things I have read about Barclays is that they play music too loudly on the PA during game action. Maybe the staff had read the press, but I didn’t notice the problem. Sure there was an abundance of well chosen hip-hop, but it didn’t strike me as being louder than any other arena I’ve been in. The mood in the arena was light, people were chatting and drinking their expensive beers, and beautiful girls were passing up and down my aisle. Everyone laughed and cheered at the Kiss Cam and all the foolish dancers that were caught on the big screen. The action on-court was at a high level and my heart was filled with all kinds of longing, both romantic and restless.

I was sitting near some Golden State fans—there seemed to be a lot of transplants at the game—and I enjoyed listening to their insights on the game. In fact, everyone I was sitting near seemed to be smart and informed about the game of basketball, which was good, because the whole time I watched the game I was thinking about all of Zach Lowe’s expert work at Grantland where he breaks down facets of each and every team’s tendencies in such an educational way that it is startling. I was watching for the Golden State defense, which creates pockets of space around the elbow outside the paint so that they can force teams into longer two point shots (the least efficient shot in basketball) and provide better help. As I eased into the buzz of my high-priced Miller Lites, I decided that life was good because basketball fandom had entered into some golden period of knowledge and study that made the game that much richer and enthralling.

The game went back and forth. Joe Johnson continued to be unconscious as he approached thirty points. Steph Curry dazzled with his crossovers, absurd fallaways and pull up three pointers. David Lee was inspiring with his low post footwork, touch around the basket and his mid-range shot. And, the formerly much-maligned Andray Blatche (until this past week), continued to prove that he is a real basketball player and that the Nets’ move to sign him this past summer was perhaps the savviest personnel move in the entire league. He made emphatic dunks; smart passes to cutters and often finished with finesse around the basket. He finished with 21 points and 13 rebounds.

Finally, much to the enjoyment of my neighbors, the Warriors pulled away for a hard fought and well-earned road win. I grabbed my coat and messenger bag and filed out of Barclays with the rest of the Brooklynites and NBA fans. Outside, Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues continued with steady traffic in the slow rain. Fluorescent lights from Atlantic Terminal shone across the slick, dark roads and people scurried this way and that. I heard one guy and girl say that they “had to go uptown.”

I made my way to the quiet of Pacific Street and headed east to my apartment. While I walked in the drizzle, I heard two kids talking behind.

“Just let me look at that homework.”

“Yo, but that’s like copying.”

“No, its not. I’m gonna look at it and then write my shit in my own way.”

“That’s the same as copying.”

“No it ain’t.”

“Yes it is and I hate when kids be fucking doing that.”

I laughed to myself, smoke coming out of my mouth, and walked briskly on as they continued to argue behind me.

As I proceeded down Pacific Street, there were homes lit up with Christmas trees and lights. The street grew quieter and quieter and the brownstones, with their stoops and artwork hanging prominently in each window, became increasingly pronounced in the night. Rain hung in the nearly empty trees and dropped slowly to the slate sidewalks. Dim window and streetlight fell in front of me as I made my way closer and closer to my apartment. It was Friday, but those two kids were arguing about schoolwork that would be settled on Monday. I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about that, because it was Friday and I was happy that I could just take a train, go see a basketball game and then walk home.

Even though I was alone, it didn’t seem to matter much. I wanted to watch basketball and I did it. In a city filled with social life and sex and obligations, something that simple makes things a lot less messy.

1 comment:

  1. Sweetest Domino,

    I am not going to get into shit that is going on in my personal life right now but suffice it to say that you are more right in that last line than you could ever believe. Amen, brother.

    With Love,