“Stop making fun of us.” - Deron Williams, probably.
The Brooklyn Nets should’ve had it easy. It shouldn’t have been hard to make the Barclays Center, their home, a raucous arena. Brooklyn is a great place for a team, a city famous for basketball and good, loud rap music. Just open the doors and let the people do what they do.
This is what the Brooklyn Nets came up with as the central element of their arena experience:
That grating, half-assed, abysmal moan is the official sanctioned fan chant of the Brooklyn Nets. The PA system at the Barclays Center prompts the crowd to participate in it countless times every game. Imagine being a Nets player and having to listen to that, every few minutes, every single home game, at least 41 times a year. Picture this: It’s early in the game, you’re trying to get in the groove, trying to get something started. All you need is a little jump from the crowd, a little gas to get this going. And then —
What the hell is that noise? Are those YOUR fans? Whoops, you just let a pass bounce off your face.
A few minutes later, though, you’re starting to get into it. You make a few buckets in a row. You’re feeling good. You run back on defense, a pep in your step. But —
Rendered apathetic by your own alleged fans’ utter lack of enthusiasm, your thoughts drift. Taking your mind off the game, you run into the basket support. For the next several years, teenagers looking to taunt each other will send around pictures of your face smashing into the support’s foam padding with a caption reading “DORP DERF.”
Still, you make it to the fourth quarter down only five points. You need a little gas to get this going. And then —
You dribble the ball off your foot, triggering an opponent’s fast break that ends with you getting dunked on so hard that several bloggers publish fake obituaries for your career the next morning.
The “Broooooookllyyyyyyyyn” sound is so defeating, of course, because it uses the same descending-tone pattern as other derisive chants. Like “airrrrrrr-ballllll”:
Airball, bullshit, and asshole. There is no way that the Nets players don’t subconsciously react as if their own fans hate them when this chant happens.
There is, in theory, subversive appeal to appropriating a tune we universally associate with negativity. There are some precedents, some chants in a similar vein that have worked, like “Youuuuuuuuuuuk” (instead of “booooooo”) for Kevin Youkilis. And it’s (somewhat) understandable why the Nets might have thought their fans would enjoy chanting “Broooook-lynnn” in that needling tone. There’s something about it that says: We’re so hard, so real, that merely saying who we are is a taunt, because it reminds you of what you’re not.
But it hasn’t caught on, which is probably a good thing for humanity — it’s good that most Brooklyn fans don’t enjoy participating in something whose subtext is so ad hominem and insulting. But the lack of participation subsequently makes them seem apathetic, above-it-all. It’s a Chant-22.
Fans can do two things: cheer and chant. That is literally all we do. By forcing the “Brooooook-lynnnn” failnomenon on their crowd, the Nets brass neuters away half of their fanly vigor. The Nets owners should apologize for this cultural-engineering fiasco and let the fans organically settle on a new chant themselves — which is what should have happened in the first place. If residents of the supposed creative capital of America can’t come up with a goddamned chant on their own without some d-bag marketer telling them what to do, they probably don’t deserve to have a basketball team after all.
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I’m surprised you think the Brooklyn Nets “should have had it easy.” Maybe you’re not from New York. This is a town where, until this year, the only game in town was the Knicks. Basketball fans from the five boroughs have grown up with loyalty toward the Knicks. To think that the New Jersey Nets could just move across the river(s), set up shop in a fancy new arena, and suddenly take the town by storm is absurd. Not in a town where, as the cliche goes, hoops fans bleed orange and blue. Now, if and when the Nets become a championship caliber team….well, that’s a different story. Nothing like a championship season to convert casual and fair-weather fans.
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