The Nets may be done for the season, but, you know, all the better for us to start picking apart how things went with their First Year in Brooklyn. Mostly, I think the answer is “fine?” People seem to like the Barclays center, the Nets played some good games, a lot of screaming teenagers on the subway seem pretty happy to be wearing head-to-toe black-and-white team merch. Fine.
What’s interesting (if not totally surprising) about all this is new data indicating pretty solidly that, in spite of one of the greatest branding and publicity blitzes this city has ever known, the majority of Nets fans don’t actually live in Brooklyn.
Per a post on The Brooklyn Game, recent numbers show TV viewership of Nets games with a makeup of roughly 16.7% Brooklyn residents, as opposed to 30.7% from New Jersey, and 46% from New York City as a whole. The site’s own traffic bears out a similar pattern, with 26% of readers hailing from Brooklyn, and 40% from Jersey. Not impressive, but then, there are also just a lot more people in Jersey than in Brooklyn, which could throw things off. More specifically worrying is a recent study indicating that the Nets are the very last in the league when it comes to “fan involvement.” They also had what Brooklyn Game calls “one of the worst home court advantage differentials in the league.” Yikes.
Does this mean that the whole venture is a crushing failure, or even a mediocre success? Eh, not really. Numbers may have been hurt by the Knicks’ unexpectedly attention-grabbing season, and if anything, I’m sort of impressed by both the malleability of New York basketball fans who’ve made the switch and the ongoing loyalty of so many Jersey Nets fans. When, say, the Super Sonics abruptly moved to Oklahoma and re-branded as the Thunder, some of us stopped paying attention to basketball in its entirety. Change is weird, and people don’t usually like being told what to like. You know what people do seem to like, and even rally around? Things they have quietly gotten used to over a long period of time, pretty much regardless of their original level of enthusiasm. Barring any particular genius (or disastrous) PR move, it seems pretty likely that these numbers will just keep creeping up every year until we hit a level of enthusiasm that probably won’t ever be Dodgers-worthy, exactly, but still, a little better than “worst in the league.”
Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.