Though we try to keep it as cool as possible, there’s no big secret that a large portion of the young-ish people populating Brooklyn right now actually came from somewhere else. The Midwest is the usual whipping boy when the lifelong locals want to get their mockery in, but every state, every region has coughed up a starry eyed kid or a thousand to fill in the borough’s outlying hoods. While most of us want, right away, to identify as Brooklynites, there are a few regional quirks that still slip out. And only a very few of these get broadcast as proudly as an undying affiliation to the beloved team of the hometowns we eventually bailed on.
Pretty much everyone from Oregon is a Portland Trailblazers fan. There’s only one big-time pro team in state (though it’s cute that some locals pretend that MLS soccer counts) and for a city that’s become so famously mocked for its artistic pretension, fandom is surprisingly universal. It’s at least one thing the shlubby bus driver and the tattooed vegan have in common. I myself became a Blazers fan at an unusually good time for the franchise, watching Clyde Drexler dominate early 90s games in a way that no one except for Michael Jordan could. (Jordan, of course, just flipped a switch and dominated Drexler when he needed to, but that’s not the point.) There’s nothing that cements team loyalty like success half-remembered from youth. It’s a vaccine against logic that stores a hazy ideal of what sports Valhalla could look like in the same part of the brain that still inexplicably perks up over ice-cream truck music.
But you know what? Being a Blazers fan has been a super sad endeavor for roughly forever. Even their moments of greatest success were tinged with tragedy. Drexler’s team never got over the hump. Shaq’s Lakers proved to be equally insurmountable during the team’s next peak a decade later. There have been detours through futility and team-wide jerkdom. Most recently, super likable All-NBA star Brandon Roy came out of a series of injuries as a shell of himself, and we drafted disintegrating man Greg Oden over league-scorching hero Kevin Durant. Given the time delay, there were more nights than I’d care to remember spent getting disappointed and sleep deprived watching a failure parade at 1:30AM EST. Why continue bringing something so inconvenient and painful into my life…for fun? Couldn’t there be something better in this world?
But the Knicks were never going to make my eye wander. Sure, getting drunk at a Knicks game is a damn fine way to spend a few hours and unreal numbers of dollars. But giving up on my beloved underdog squad for a team that was way more loathsome, and actually worse at basketball? Why trade in hard-earned emotional baggage just to follow a team with less likable stars and a way more terrible rich ass of an owner, that to top it all off, had less success? It would be completely perverse, akin to leaving your wife for a meaner, dumber, less attractive option. Not only is it a betrayal of personal values, it’s a nonsensical, masochistic one.
But the Nets? To switch to a team that plays in my long-time hometown, a team that’s spending big to win now, whose games will fall at a relaxing, just post dinner time hour on the east coast, a team that’s starting brand new, batting its eyes at me and asking if I’ve actually been treated nice by a basketball team before? It just sounds nice. I fear my conviction is starting to crack.
The ultimate test of team loyalty is the gun to the head question: If Brooklyn played Portland in the Finals, who would you root for? My answer is definitely still Portland. But, shit, it’s been 20 years since Portland even made the Finals and that scenario seems wildly improbable. The more pertinent question, the one that’s going to pop up starting in a couple weeks is: If Brooklyn and Portland both played low-pressure games on a Thursday evening when you happen to be free, which one would give you more pleasure to watch? And boy, Brooklyn’s got a healthy lead there.
BUT SHOULD KNICKS FANS BECOME BROOKLYN FANS?