Wednesday, November 5, 2014
How to Go to a Brooklyn Nets Game -- 2014-15 Edition
The Nets have been the New Jersey Americans (1967-68), the New York Nets (1968-77), the New Jersey Nets (1977-2012) and the Brooklyn Nets (2012-present).
They've played in the American Basketball Association (ABA, 1967-76) and the National Basketball Association (NBA, 1976-present).
They've played in Teaneck and East Rutherford, Bergen County; in Commack, West Hempstead and Uniondale, Nassau County; in Piscataway, Middlesex County; in Newark, Essex County; and now in Brooklyn, Kings County.
They've been pretenders to the title of "best basketball team in the New York Tri-State Area," they've been legitimate contenders for it, and on a few occasions -- not many, but a few -- they've been it. Certainly, for the moment, they appear to be the more ambitious team that the New York Knickerbockers.
But they will never be the most-loved pro basketball team in the Area. They may not ever even be the most-loved NBA team in Brooklyn. They certainly never had more fans in New Jersey than the Knicks.
But they do know how to put on a show.
Before You Go. In New York and North Jersey, anything is possible as far as the weather goes, but since you'll be mainly indoors, and you'll probably be taking the Subway to the Barclays Center, it won't be nearly as much of an issue as it would be going to Yankee Stadium, Citi Field or MetLife Stadium.
It's the Eastern Time Zone, so you don't have to worry about fiddling with your timepieces if you actually are a Nets fan, or a fan of any of the teams in the East visiting them. It's 1 hour ahead of the Central Time Zone, 2 hours ahead of Mountain, and 3 hours ahead of Pacific.
Tickets. In their Meadowlands period (1981-2010), the Nets always had trouble drawing fans. The parking lot was poorly-planned, and public transportation access, until the rail spur was built in 2009, was pathetic: Just New Jersey Transit's Number 320 bus out of Port Authority Bus Terminal. In other words, if you were from New Jersey, and you wanted to watch a Nets or Devils game at the Meadowlands, you had to go to New York first -- often running into Knicks or Rangers fans heading to Madison Square Garden. So getting to and from a Nets (or Devils) game was not fun. As a result, both teams' attendances were frequently pathetic. The temporary move to the Prudential Center should have helped the Nets, as it has helped the Devils. It didn't, because Jersey fans still knew their team was a lame duck, so what was the point?
The move to Brooklyn has improved things, attendance-wise: Not only is the Barclays Center new, and convenient once you get inside, it's convenient to get to, next to the Long Island Rail Road's Atlantic Terminal and on top of a major Subway junction. Last season, the Nets averaged 17,251 fans per home game, about 95 percent of capacity. Still, getting tickets won't be nearly as hard for the Nets as it is for the Knicks.
Seats in the lower level, the single-digit and double-digit section, run $123 to $169 between the baskets and $54 to $76 behind them. (I'm not counting the closest seats, which are insanely expensive, as you might expect at an NBA game in New York City.) The middle level, the Loge, the 100 sections, runs $111 to $204 between the baskets and $31 to $102 behind them. The upper level, the 200 sections, are a bargain: $15 to $53 between the baskets and $13 to $39 behind them.
Getting There. For those of you not from the Tri-State Area: For reasons that will soon become clear, I'm advising you to get to New York by a means other than driving: Plane, train, bus. Hotels in the City are ridiculously expensive, and you may be better off getting a hotel outside, in New Jersey or Westchester or Long Island; adding the cost of public transportation (New Jersey Transit, Metro-North or the Long Island Railroad) will still be cheaper than most Manhattan hotels.
As I said, the Barclays Center is across Atlantic Avenue from the Atlantic Terminal. Thus, it can be reached via the LIRR and the Subway.
Once In the City. The city of New Amsterdam, and the colony of New Netherland, was founded by the Dutch in 1624. In 1664, the English took over, and named both city and colony New York, for the Duke of York, brother of King Charles II. As none of Charles' many children were legitimate, when he died in 1685, that brother became King James II -- and his reign did not end well, and let's leave it at that.
Kings County, which is contiguous with Brooklyn, was named for King Charles, but the Dutch name Breuckelen stuck, and in 1834 it became the City, and after 1898 the Borough, of Brooklyn. The rivalry between Brooklyn and Manhattan was intense long before sports became a factor. In the 1897 referendum to create what was then referred to as "Greater New York," all 5 would-be Boroughs voted in favor, but the only vote that was close was Brooklyn. They clung to their identity as a separate city -- which took a hit the year before, when the cupola of City Hall fabulously burned. It was in the process of being replaced during the referendum, and the building became known as Borough Hall.
Pennsylvania Station, a.k.a. Penn Station, is between 31st and 33rd Streets, between 7th and 8th Avenues. Port Authority Bus Terminal is between 40th and 42nd Streets, between 8th and 9th Avenues. They are one stop apart on the Subway's A, C and E trains. Outside Port Authority, there is a statue of Jackie Gleason dressed as Brooklyn-based bus driver Ralph Kramden on The Honeymooners, one of a series of statues commissioned by cable network TV Land.
When you get to your hotel, Penn Station or Port Authority, if you have time to read, go to a Hudson News stand and pick up copies of The New York Times and the Daily News. Believe me, reading the New York papers on your computer or smartphone just isn't the same. In many ways, New York was a city built on newspapers, and there's nothing like turning the page of the Times or the Daily News to find another good story, especially the City features and the sports section, to get a feel for what people in The City are really thinking and feeling.
Don’t read the New York Post. Like anything owned by Rupert Murdoch, it’s a bunch of right-wing lies with an occasionally good sports section added. The Times and the Daily News, however, are not only manned by responsible journalists, but have great sports sections. The Times is the face New York City likes to show the rest of the world. The Daily News is the face the City prefers to show itself. The Post is a face only a mother could love. Not my mother, though. Nor hers.
The sales tax in New York City is 8.25 percent, in New Jersey 7 percent.
Although the term "Long Island" usually refers to the Counties of Nassau and Suffolk to the east of The City, the actual physical structure of Long Island includes the Boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens (contiguous with the Counties of Kings and Queens, named for King Charles' Portuguese wife, Catherine of Braganza.) In 1776, the Battle of Long Island was fought in what's now called Brooklyn Heights, and the British used it to chase George Washington and his Continental Army out of first Brooklyn, then New York proper, not handing it back over until the Treaty of Paris of 1783. Downtown Brooklyn is now home to Long Island University.
New York has been the most populous city in America since surpassing Philadelphia in the post-Revolutionary period, and of the 8.4 million people living in the Five Boroughs (out of about 23 million living in the New York Metropolitan Area, a.k.a. the New York Tri-State Area), about 2.6 million live in Brooklyn. This led to the sign that still stands as you cross the East River over the Manhattan Bridge: "Welcome to Brooklyn 4th Largest City In America." It's true: Only the rest of New York, Los Angeles and Chicago have more people.
Like Manhattan, much of Brooklyn has a street grid, with east-west numbered streets and north-south numbered avenues. However, in some parts of the Borough, things get complicated. In the northern part, in the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, there is a different set of numbered streets, labeled North and South. And at the southern end, Coney Island has "West 1st Street, West 2nd Street," and so on; while neighboring Brighton Beach has "Beach 1st Street, Beach 2nd Street," and so on. Bensonhurst has "Bay 1st Street," etc. Also, while Manhattan's Lower East Side, a.k.a. Alphabet City, only goes from Avenue A to Avenue D, Brooklyn has the entire alphabet from Avenue A to Avenue Z.
Brooklyn long-ago became a place where white people are the minority, with African-Americans, black Caribbeans and Puerto Ricans becoming dominant. So the old-style "Brooklyn accent" so common to people of Irish, Italian and Jewish descent, with "dis, dat, dese, dose," etc., and the switching of the OI and R sounds -- "Dat poyson ovah dere tinks we should flip a kern ta decide" -- is pretty much history, so don't expect to hear it.
The Subway system looks complicated, and it is. The blue lines (A, C & E), orange lines (B, D & F) and red lines (1, 2 & 3) are on the West Side; the green lines (4, 5 & 6) on the East Side; the yellow lines (N, Q & R) go from the East Side when Downtown to the West Side in Midtown, and then cross over to Queens. The G train, in bright green on its signs and on the Subway map, is the only train in the system that doesn't go into Manhattan at all, and is officially a "Crosstown" train serving Brooklyn and Queens. A single ride is $2.50, and you're better off getting a multi-ride MetroCard. There will be a $1.00 charge for a new card.
Going In. The Barclays Center can be reached from Penn Station by taking the 2 or the 3 train, the 7th Avenue Line, to Atlantic Avenue-Barclays Center station. From Port Authority, there is a tunnel connecting the 8th Avenue and 7th Avenue lines, and you can pick up the 2 or the 3 at Times Square station. From Grand Central Terminal, take the 4 or the 5 train. The official address is 620 Atlantic Avenue, and it's at the corner of Flatbush Avenue.
Those of you used to seeing The Garden, or any other pre-2010s sports arena will be surprised. The Barclays Center, named for a British-based bank, was designed by Frank Gehry, whose designs are a bit weird, almost Picasso-esque. Don't let the exterior throw you, though: The interior is fully functional.
Food. New York is one of the world's great food cities, but Brooklyn is known more for pedestrian fare rather than fine dining. The food at the Barclays Center reflects this.
On the lower level, the Ticketmaster Main Concourse, there's Brooklyn Burger at Section 3, David's K Deli at 6, Fatty 'Cue BBQ at 7, Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs at 8, Paisano's Butcher Shop at 10, Williamsburg Pizza at 15, the WFAN Boomer & Carton Kitchen (named for former Jets quarterback Boomer Esiason and his morning-radio co-host Craig Carton) at 17, Nathan's hot dogs and crinkle-cut fries at 24, Junior's Deli (with its famous cheesecake) at 26, and Fresco's by Scotto and another Brooklyn Burger stand at 29.
On the upper level, the Metro PCS Upper Pavilion, there's Williamsburg Pizza and Nathan's at 206/207, Brooklyn Burger at 209/210 and 222/223, Fatty 'Cue at 222/223, and Brooklyn Bangers & Dogs and Thomas' Greek Kitchen at 225/226.
Team History Displays. The Nets' history has had its moments, but the embarrassing outweighs the glorious: Draft busts such as Ed O'Bannon, Dennis Hopson and Yinka Dare -- who played all of 3 minutes his 1st season, earning him the nickname "The Three-Minute Egg" -- seem to outweigh the championship banners.
The Nets won the ABA title in 1974 and 1976, and its Eastern Division title in 1972. They never added an NBA banner of any kind -- indeed, only won 1 NBA Playoff series, in 1984 -- until Jason Kidd arrived in the 2001-02 season. The Nets won the 2002 and 2003 Eastern Conference titles, and won the Atlantic Division in those seasons, 2004 and 2006. Those banners have been moved from the Meadowlands to the Prudential Center to the Barclays Center.
The Nets have 7 retired numbers, but only 6 are on banners hanging in the rafters. In 1975, forward Wendell Ladner, a key figure on their 1974 ABA Champions, was killed in a plane crash. No Net has worn his Number 4 since, but it's never been on display. Also from the ABA years are the Number 25 of guard Bill Melchionni, the Number 23 of guard "Super John" Williamson, and, of course, the Number 32 of Roosevelt, Long Island native forward Julius Erving, "Doctor J."
Representing the 35 years of Jersey hoops are Williamson (who lasted until 1980), the Number 52 of forward Buck Williams, the Number 3 of ill-fated Croatian guard Drazen Petrovic (killed in a car crash in 1993, just as the Nets seemed to be gaining some momentum), and the Number 5 of Jason Kidd.
Erving and Petrovic are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Also having played for the Nets, but not for long, and in the Hall are Rick Barry, Mel Daniels, Nate "Tiny" Archibald, Bernard King, Bob McAdoo and Alonzo Mourning. Lou Carnesecca, Larry Brown and Chuck Daly all coached the Nets, and are in the Hall; however, Stan Albeck, who coached their ABA titles, is not in the Hall.
Stuff. The Atlantic Terminal Mall is attached to the Atlantic Terminal, across Atlantic Avenue from the arena. But even on non-game days, The Shops at Barclays Center are open. They include the Nets Lifestyle Shop by adidas, on the Flatbush Avenue side of the arena, between 4th Avenue and Dean Street. There, you can pick up any kind of Nets gear that would be available at, say, Modell's or Sports Authority. They also include a MetroPCS store and a Starbucks. (Yeah, but The Garden has Tim Hortons, which is better.)
There are many good books about the Knicks, but good luck funding any about the Nets. In spite of Dr. J, briefly (just 3 seasons, 1973-76), playing in the Tri-State Area (albeit out on Long Island) and being every bit as cool as Walt "Clyde" Frazier, the Nets have never been as cool as the Knicks. Even Jason Kidd and Vince Carter were never as hip as the Knicks of the same period, who were dull, but could at least call on the legacy of Frazier, Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Bernard King (who played for the Knicks much longer than he did the Nets) and Patrick Ewing.
Earlier this year, Jake Appleman published Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball's Historic First Season in the Borough. The year before, Nate Frisch published The Story of the Brooklyn Nets, which does discuss the pre-Brooklyn years, detailing the occasional sublime and the much more common ridiculous. That's about it.
Finding DVDs about the Nets will be even harder. Maybe if they'd beaten San Antonio in the 2003 Finals... They did push it to 6 games. Or maybe if John Starks hadn't clotheslined Kenny Anderson, causing him to fall on his arm and break his wrist, so that he was never the same player, and maybe if Petro hadn't been killed the following summer, so that both were still in their prime along with Derrick Coleman...
During the Game. Although New Yorkers can be intense, a visiting fan will probably be safe attending a Net game at the Barclays Center, even if you're wearing gear of the opposing team. All the same, exercise discretion if you're wearing Boston Celtics stuff. Any other team's fans will most likely be subject to nothing more than a few verbal jabs.
Much of the fun of going to a Knick game is spotting the celebrities. With the Nets, it's a different story. Although Spike Lee is from Brooklyn, he's not going to abandon the Knicks for the Nets, the way he abandoned the Mets for the Yankees when their first black superstar, Reggie Jackson, arrived. (Willie Mays was a superstar and a Met in 1972 and '73, but he was not a "Mets superstar.") Aside from Nets' part-owners Jay-Z and Beyoncé, you're probably not going to see any celebrities sitting courtside.
In their New Jersey years, the Mets had mascots: Duncan the Dragon (Duncan = "dunkin'"), and then Sly the Silver Fox. The Nets introduced a new superhero mascot for their move to Brooklyn, named BrooklyKnight (a play on the demonym "Brooklynite") on their Hurricane Sandy-delayed Opening Night, November 3, 2012. He was lowered from the ceiling of the Barclays Center amid sparks and fanfare, and introduced by Nets public-address announcer David Diamante: "Here to defend Brooklyn, he's the BrooklyKnight." The mascot was co-created by Marvel Entertainment, a sister company to NBA broadcasters ABC and ESPN. A 32-page comic book titled BrooklyKnight #1 was released by Marvel to commemorate the unveiling of the mascot. After the Nets' 2nd season in Brooklyn, the franchise decided to discontinue the BrooklyKnight mascot -- possibly proving that, for the Nets, not even a superhero can save the day.
Also on their Brooklyn Opening Night, the Nets introduced a new team anthem titled "Brooklyn: Something To Lean On", written and recorded by Brooklyn-born musician John Forté. The song is notable for its refrain, which features the "Brooklyn" chant that has been popular with fans in Barclays Center.
After the Game. New York's reputation as a high-crime city hasn't been true in years. Certain parts of Brooklyn still manage to defy this, but if you manage to avoid anybody who got drunk during the game, you'll probably be safe. Besides, it's only a short walk from the arena to the Subway or (if you came by LIRR) the Atlantic Terminal. Despite Brooklyn's image as a place for tough guys, white and black alike, Net fans haven't developed a reputation for being rough. Then again, they haven't yet developed a reputation of any kind.
Unlike The Garden, there aren't many places around the Barclays Center where you can get a postgame meal, or just a pint. Jay-Z had The 40/40 Club, named for a legendary Atlantic City nightclub (which he also revived down there), built into the arena. But it's a little upscale for the average fan, especially one who's just spent a lot on tickets and arena food. Alchemy, at 56 5th Avenue at Bergen Street, is listed as serving "Comfort food in a pub style atmosphere," but that's about it. You may have to head into the Subway and look for something elsewhere.
Sidelights. This is where I discuss other sports-related sites in the metropolitan area in question, and then move on to tourist attractions that have no (or little) connection to sports. Since most people reading this will be from the Tri-State Area, I'll keep it short as possible. Indeed, since the focus is on the Brooklyn team, I'll focus on stuff in Brooklyn -- but also mention the former homes of the Nets.
I should note that the site of the Barclays Center was desired by Brooklyn Dodger owner Walter O'Malley as the site of what would have been America's 1st domed baseball stadium. Officially listed in plans as The Brooklyn Sports Center, it was nicknamed O'Malley's Pleasure Dome (the name taken from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem about Kublai Khan, "Xanadu").
By being across from the Atlantic Terminal and on top of a major Subway junction, it would have eliminated what was, along with the limited seating capacity, the biggest problem with Ebbets Field: Only 750 parking spaces. With so many Dodger fans having come back from World War II and gotten housing loans on the G.I. Bill, allowing them to move out to Queens and Long Island proper, instead of having to drive in to Flatbush, they could drive to their local LIRR station and take the train in, thus being able to celebrate their Dodgers in Brooklyn without having to "be in Brooklyn."
But Robert Moses, New York's construction czar, didn't want a stadium there -- probably because it wouldn't have been "his stadium," it would have been O'Malley's. He wanted one out in Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, across from the site of the 1939-40 World's Fair he designed, to correlate with the 1964-65 World's Fair he was planning. O'Malley had a point: If the Dodgers were going to go to Queens, they wouldn't be the Brooklyn Dodgers anymore. Their identity would be gone. They might as well leave The City, they might as well leave the East Coast. And they did.
To make matters worse, Moses never offered his Flushing Meadow stadium to the Giants, who had better reasons to replace the Polo Grounds than the Dodgers had to replace Ebbets Field: Although it had the largest seating capacity in the National League at the time, it, and its neighborhood, were falling apart.
If Horace Stoneham had gone to Moses and said, "Hey, what about us?" then, most likely, the stadium would have opened a couple of years sooner, and the 1962 World Series, instead of Yankee Stadium and Candlestick Park, would have been played at Yankee Stadium and the Flushing Meadow stadium -- which, in this alternate history, would not have been named Shea Stadium. Indeed, aside from his family, his friends, and the people involved in his legal cases, no one would have known who William A. Shea was, because the team he worked to replace, his beloved New York Giants, would have crossed The City rather than leaving it.
Surely, New York's National League "half" would have been better off with the Giants' 6 Pennants and 3 World Championships since 1958 than they've been with the Mets' 4 Pennants and 2 World Championships -- especially since all 3 World Series wins have come since the Yankees last did it.
(Someday, I'll have to write a "What if the Giants had stayed?" post. The possibilities are actually juicier than if the Dodgers had stayed.)
So while the move (some would say "theft") of the Dodgers was O'Malley's fault, first and foremost, Moses was, however indirectly, an accomplice. Some blame him more than O'Malley, which is stupid. He can be blamed 2nd, but not 1st.
* Site of Ebbets Field. It's hard for those of us under the age of 65, who have no memory of the Dodgers in Brooklyn or the Giants at the Polo Grounds, to realize that Shea Stadium, Dodger Stadium and Candlestick Park have all now lasted longer than Ebbets Field did (47 years) -- and that Dodger Stadium will soon surpass the final version of the Polo Grounds in age as well (53 years).
Ebbets Field gets romanticized by all those Dodger fans who made it big in media and entertainment, all of them now old or dead. The Giants don't get remembered as well because nobody wrote a book about them the way Roger Kahn wrote The Boys of Summer about the 1950s Dodgers, and because, while the Mets replaced the Giants as a representative of all of New York, there is no representative specifically of Brooklyn. (Had the Mets' permanent stadium been in Brooklyn instead of Queens, it might have been another story.)
Ebbets Field was flawed. Built in 1913, it had most of the flaws of the stadiums built in the ballpark building boom of 1909 to 1915, when 14 of the 16 teams then in existence built or moved into new stadiums of concrete and steel. (The St. Louis Cardinals waited until 1920 to move into the newer, larger ballpark in their town, and the Philadelphia Phillies waited until 1938, both remaining in wooden stadiums that opened in the 1890s.)
It only had 31,497 seats and 750 parking spaces, and it was a 6-block walk from the closest Subway stations -- now serviced by the B and Q to Prospect Park, and the 2, 3, 4 and 5 to Franklin Avenue. And if you've ever been to Fenway Park or Wrigley Field, with narrow iron seats and narrow rows, not exactly built with 21st Century tushes and legs in mind, you'll get an idea of what it was like to sit through 9 innings there.
But also had an intimacy that few ballparks had, even then. Most of the players lived not that far from the ballpark, instead of in Manhattan high-rises or on New Jersey or Long Island estates, as present-day Yankees and Mets tend to do these days. The furthest seats were close enough to see the players' facial expressions. The fans felt that they knew the players, and that the players knew them. And the characters, from noisy bleacherite Hilda Chester to the awful musicians that Dodger broadcaster Red Barber named "the Dodger Sym-Phony Band, with the emphasis on the 'Phony'!"
My grandmother was a Dodger fan from Queens. She told me that the Polo Grounds was a dump, but that, despite O'Malley not spending any money on upkeep -- aside from being naturally cheap, what did he need to do that for, since he was going to be out by the 1960s anyway? -- Ebbets Field was not falling apart, even toward the end. I asked her, point-blank: If the price for keeping the Dodgers in Brooklyn was building a modern ballpark, and sacrificing your beloved Ebbets Field, would you have paid that price? Without hesitation, she gave me an emphatic, "Yes." She would have liked Citi Field, the Mets' new ballpark, with its exterior designed to look like Ebbets Field, and its home-plate rotunda, designed to resemble the one at the Flatbush ballyard.
The Dodgers left after the 1957 season, and demolition began on February 23, 1960. Four years later, on April 11, 1964, the same demolition company used the same wrecking ball, still painted to look like a baseball, to begin tearing down the Polo Grounds.
In 1962, Ebbets Field Apartments opened on the site. Low-income housing, and long noted for drug sales, it's liveable again, although I would suggest visiting in daylight. 1720 Bedford Avenue, bordered by Bedford, Sullivan Place, McKeever Place and Montgomery Street. (The McKeever brothers, Ed and Steve, along with Charles Ebbets, owned the team in the 1910s and '20s.) The home-plate entrance was at McKeever and Sullivan. Across McKeever is an intermediate school named for Ebbets Field, formerly named for Jackie Robinson. A playground named for Jackie is just to the north of the school, behind where the left-field stands used to be. (At roughly the same spot in comparison to the Polo Grounds Towers is a playground named Willie Mays Field).
* MCU Park and Coney Island. Named for the iconic Brooklyn-based company formerly known as KeySpan, and before that as Brooklyn Union Gas, this is the home of the Brooklyn Cyclones, established in 2001 as the Class A farm team of the Mets, and as the 1st professional sports team, at any level, in Brooklyn since the Dodgers left. Ironically, along each baseline there is a zigzag roof, similar to the ones over the bleachers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.
The park was built on the site of Steeplechase Park, one of the amusement parks that made Coney Island America's 1st summer resort. It's not actually an island, but a peninsula. The original Dutch settlers named it "Conyne Eylandt" -- Rabbit Island. The rabbits, like Steeplechase and the old Dreamland and Luna Park to the east, are long gone. Only Astroland remains, and even that has been significantly redeveloped in the last few years.
The Cyclones have a rivalry with the Staten Island Yankees, with the Yankees-Mets dynamic coming into play. They beat the "Baby Bombers" in the Playoffs in 2007, but lost to them in 2006 and 2011. They have won their Division of the New York-Penn League 5 times, most recently in 2010. In their 1st season, 2001, they had won Game 1 of their championship series with the Pennsylvania-based Williamsport Crosscutters. The next day was September 11. The rest of the series was canceled, and the teams were declared Co-Champions. This is the Cyclones' only Pennant thus far.
When I first saw their mascot, I thought it was an eagle, named for the legendary newspaper, the Brooklyn Eagle, which, after the Dodgers lost the 1941 World Series to the Yankees, blared in a front-page headline what became the Dodgers' motto until they finally beat the Yanks in 1955 (bittersweetly, mere months after the paper folded): "WAIT 'TIL NEXT YEAR." But it's actually a seagull, Sandy the Seagull, named for the beach. (Not for Brooklyn native Sandy Koufax.) Despite the effects of the 2012 hurricane on the Tri-State Area as a whole, and Coney Island in particular, the mascot's name is still Sandy.
Over the right-field wall is the now-retired (due to safety) Parachute Jump, once a legendary Coney Island ride, which had been designed for the 1939 World's Fair and then moved to the boardwalk. Adjacent to that is a skating rink named for Abe Stark, who rode an advertising sign at Ebbets Field ("HIT SIGN WIN SUIT -- ABE STARK -- Brooklyn's Leading Clothier") to the Presidency of the City Council (where he fought in vain to keep the Dodgers in Brooklyn) and later to the Presidency of the Borough.
Outside the park is a statue of Dodger legends Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese, symbolizing the friendship of the 1st nonwhite player in modern Major League Baseball, and the Southern-born team captain who chose to defy prejudice and assert his friendship with the man. Although Jackie, buried in Brooklyn's Cypress Hills Cemetery, has many honors throughout The City, this was his 1st statue in the Five Boroughs.
1904 Surf Avenue. D, F, N or Q train to Coney Island-Stillwell Avenue. The team is named for the iconic Coney Island roller coaster, at 1000 Surf, visible over the left-field wall. Also nearby, at 1300 Surf, is the original Nathan's hot dog stand, which celebrates its 100th Anniversary in 2016.
* Site of Washington Park. The team now known as the Dodgers -- previously known as the Grays; the Bridegrooms, because 3 of their 1880s players got married in a single off-season; the Superbas, after a circus troupe, Hanlon's Superbas, due to their manager being name Ned Hanlon; and the Robins, in honor of manager Wilbert Robinson -- played in 2 different places named for George Washington. (Ironically, Los Angeles also had a baseball facility named Washington Park.)
The 1st Washington Park was bounded by 3rd & 5th Streets, and 4th & 5th Avenues, in the Gowanus neighborhood. The property contained an old building then called the Gowanus House, which stands today, albeit largely reconstructed. It was Washington's command post during the Battle of Long Island. The proto-Dodgers began here in 1883, and won the American Association Pennant in 1889 and the National League Pennant in 1890.
The 2nd, which the club began using in 1898, opened at 1st & 3rd Streets, and 3rd & 4th Avenues, on the opposite corner of 4th Avenue from its predecessor. There they remained until 1912, winning Pennants in 1899 and 1900 -- Brooklyn's last "world championship" in baseball until 1955. Although its 18,800-seat capacity was big for the 1890s, the ballpark building boom that began in 1909 made it completely inadequate, and Charlie Ebbets began buying up lots in Flatbush where he built the stadium that would bear his name.
The Brooklyn Tip-Tops of the Federal League used it in the 1914 and 1915 seasons, but the league folded, and the park was soon demolished. But there is a remnant, perhaps the only remaining remnant of a 19th Century baseball stadium: Part of the wall still stands on the eastern side of 3rd Avenue, in what's now a Con Edison yard. R train to either Union Street or 9th Street.
* Site of Union Grounds. Built in 1862 as the 1st enclosed baseball ground, and named for the country in that time of Civil War, this was the home of several amateur teams that helped to popularize the game, who were actually "clubs," just as the early soccer teams in Britain still are, and, unlike today's baseball teams, which only call themselves "ballclubs," still have "Football Club" as part of their official names: The Atlantic, the Excelsior, and the Eckford among them. In the winter, it was flooded, and turned into an ice rink.
Harrison Avenue, Rutledge Street, Lynch Street and Marcy Avenue, in the Williamsburg section. Heyward Street now runs through the site, and the Juan Morel Campos Secondary School and the Marcy Avenue Armory are on the site. G train to Broadway.
The 1st baseball stadium, the Elysian Field in Hoboken, New Jersey, was designed for cricket rather than for baseball, and was never enclosed. It did not last long, being demolished in 1883.
* Site of Capitoline Grounds. Named for a famed hill in Rome, this 5,000-seat wooden stadium opened in 1864, meant to rival and surpass the Union Grounds. The Atlantics made it their home, and it was here, on June 14, 1870, that, in the first "greatest baseball game ever played," they ended the 89-game (or 130-game, depending on whose records you believe) unbeaten streak of the 1st professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings.
This ballpark, too, became a skating rink in the winter. But its existence was even shorter than its rival's, as it was demolished in 1880. Halsey Street, Marcy Street, Putnam Avenue and Nostrand Avenue, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. A or C train to Nostrand Avenue. While this neighborhood, notorious for crime not that long ago, should be safe during the day, definitely do not visit at night.
* Brooklyn Paramount. Opened in 1928, this 4,084-seat theater was a major jazz venue in the 1930s and 1940s. But it was the late 1950s that imprinting it on people's memories: Alan Freed, and later Clay Cole, hosted 10-day Christmas-season rock-and-roll festivals, featuring all the legends and semi-legends of the era. If you've ever seen the film La Bamba, about Ritchie Valens, one of these shows was depicted. (Although they probably had to use, ironically for Brooklyn, a Los Angeles theater as a stand-in for filming it.)
Like its contemporary, the Paramount Theater in Manhattan's Times Square, it still stands, but is no longer used as a theater. Rather, in 1962, it was converted into the gymnasium for Long Island University. Now named the Arnold and Marie Schwartz Athletic Center, the LIU Blackbirds played basketball on the stage once rocked by Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Buddy Holly and Dion, until 2005, when they moved into a new gym.
The building is still used for sports, and the LIU Student Union is next-door. 1 University Plaza, at Flatbush & DeKalb Avenues, in the Fort Greene neighborhood, just east of downtown. B, Q or R train to DeKalb Avenue.
* Teaneck Armory. The Nets played the 1st season of the ABA, 1967-68, as the New Jersey Americans -- making them the 1st team to represent New Jersey in anything resembling a major league since the 1915 Newark Peppers of the Federal League. They played at an armory in Teaneck, Bergen County, built in 1936. They didn't do well attendance-wise, and moved to Long Island after 1 season.
The building still stands, and in 1997 was renovated. It is now known as the Soccer Coliseum, and indoor soccer is played there. 1799 Teaneck Road at Liberty Road. New Jersey Transit 167 or 177 bus from Port Authority.
* Long Island Arena. Also known as the Commack Arena, this 4,000-seat barn opened in 1956, and from 1959 until 1973 -- forced into irrelevancy and dissolution by the arrival of the Islanders -- it was home to the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League. (There is now an independent minor-league team with that name playing in Central Islip, Suffolk County.)
The ABA team arrived, and, to rhyme with the Mets and the Jets, changed their name to the New York Nets -- admittedly, a dumb name with a dumb reason. They were terrible in that 1968-69 season, and found the floor unacceptable, full of pits and gouges, and with condensation from the ice beneath coming up, making it slick. After 1 season, the Nets moved again, for reasons that had little to do with poor attendance or performance.
John F. Kennedy made campaign stops at both the Teaneck Armory and the Long Island Arena on November 6, 1960, 2 days before he was elected President. Part of Peter Frampton's album Frampton Comes Alive! was recorded there. It housed an indoor flea market before being closed and demolished in 1996. A shopping center is now on the site. 88 Veterans Memorial Highway at Sunken Meadow Parkway. Not really reachable by public transportation.
* Island Garden. Built across the street from the original Island Garden, which hosted rock concerts from 1957 to 1968, the Nets managed to stay here for 3 seasons, from 1969 to 1972, including Rick Barry's ABA scoring leader season in 1971 and their 1st Division title in 1972.
The opening of the Nassau Coliseum made its 8,500 seats obsolete. (Yes, kids, the "Mausoleum" made another arena obsolete.) It was demolished in 1973, and, as with the Long Island/Commack Arena, a shopping center is on the site today. But so is a part of the original arena, and youth basketball is still played there. 45 Cherry Valley Avenue at Terminal Road, West Hempstead. LIRR Hempstead Branch to Queens Village, then transfer to MTA N6 bus.
* Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Nets and expansion Islanders moved into the brand-new Coliseum in 1972, and while it took the Isles a while to find their bearings, the Nets won right away, including the 1974 and 1976 ABA titles with Dr. J, Bill Melk and Super John.
In 1976, they were invited to join the NBA. But in order to get in, they had to pay the NBA an expansion fee, and pay the Knicks a territorial indemnification fee. As a result, they had to sell Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. As a result of that, the Sixers went from terrible to nearly NBA Champions in just 1 season, and were 1 of the 3 best teams in the league for the next 10 years. At the same time, the Nets went from being the best team in a 6-team league to being the worst team in a 22-team league. They had to get out, and they did.
Meanwhile, the Isles were building the team that would win 4 straight Stanley Cups from 1980 to 1983, and win a record 19 straight postseason series from 1980 to 1984. The Coliseum became known as "Fort Neverlose," and the Isles' battles with the Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins became legendary.
But after the 1987 Easter Epic, a 4-overtime Game 7 win over the Washington Capitals, the Isles got old in a hurry. Aside from a 1993 trip to the Conference Finals, they've been just another team at best, and pathetic (and poorly-dressed) at worst. A failed referendum to build a new arena in 2010 led to speculation that they would move to Kansas City, which has built a new arena, but new ownership cut a deal to move them into the Barclays Center when their lease runs out. The current season, 2014-15, will be their last in the Coliseum.
Which is just as well, for many reasons. Getting there is not half the fun, and neither is getting back. It's a pain in the ass to get in and out of: First you have to get on the LIRR at Penn Station, then you have to change trains at Jamaica, then you have to take the Hempstead Branch to the Hempstead Terminal, then you gotta ride the N70, N71 or N72 bus down the Hempstead Turnpike, and then you gotta schlep across a desolate parking lot.
In addition, as Devils fans found out at the Meadowlands, having 1 level of concourse for 2 levels of seating means cramped confines, and long lines for food and bathrooms. It's a terrible design. Actually, the seating area isn't so bad: The 16,170 seats are comfortable, and sight lines are good. But by the time you get there, you're already in a nasty mood, and regardless of whether you're rooting for the Islanders or the visiting team, you're loaded for bear. No wonder the place, when it has any atmosphere, has a bad one.
Elvis Presley sang at the Nassau Coliseum on June 22, 23, and 24, 1973, and on July 19, 1975. The 1st concert on his Fall 1977 tour was supposed to be there, but it was not to be. It's also hosted many other renowned concerts, including major ones by Long Island native Billy Joel and a recent 2-night show by Miley Cyrus' BANGERZ World Tour. (Perspective: The last time the Isles reached the NHL's last 4, Miley was 6 months old.)
A plan is in place to redevelop the Coliseum, to downsize its seating area, and make it home for a new minor-league hockey team, while the Nets and Islanders would return to play preseason games. 1255 Hempstead Turnpike at James Doolittle Blvd. The mailing address is Uniondale, but it's part of the Town of Hempstead.
To the west, across Earl Ovington Blvd., is the campus of Hofstra University, including Weeb Ewbank Hall, the former offices and practice facility of the New York Jets. Across Hempstead Turnpike from that is another part of the Hofstra campus, including James M. Shuart Stadium. Although Hofstra no longer plays football, they play other sports there, and the new version of the New York Cosmos, as the original version did for a time in the early 1970s, plays their home games there while they look for a stadium closer to The City.
* Louis Brown Athletic Center. Built in 1977 as the Rutgers Athletic Center, it's still known as the RAC (pronounced like "Rack"). The Nets played there from 1977 to 1981, while waiting for the Meadowlands Arena to be built.
It's a pain in the ass to get to: You gotta take New Jersey Transit's Northeast Corridor to New Brunswick, then take the Rutgers Campus Bus EE to the Livingston Campus in Piscataway. It seats only 9,000 people. The angle of the seats is horrible. The sight lines are lousy. There are cylindrical pillars at the corners that block hundreds of seats. The one and only concession stand is pathetically small. The Nets had to get out of there, and Rutgers really, really needs a better arena. 83 Rockafeller Road (that's right, not "Rockefeller") at Avenue E.
* Meadowlands Arena. Opening in 1981 as the Brendan Byrne Arena, it was renamed the Continental Airlines Arena in 1996, by a Republican-controlled State Legislature, just waiting for the original naming rights to run out, so they could get revenge on the Democratic Governor who got it built -- not for that, but for signing into law the State's 1st income tax. Byrne, who is still alive at age 90, was sanguine about it: "I was immortal for 15 years."
The Nets began playing there in 1981, and the Devils in 1982 after moving from Denver, where they were the 1st sports team named the Colorado Rockies. It became the IZOD Center in 2007, after the Devils moved out. It hosted the Stanley Cup Finals in 1995, 2000 and 2001. It hosted the NBA Finals in 2002. It hosted both in 2003. However, only the Devils won titles there, in 1995, 2000 and 2003.
For most of their time there, the Nets were dreadful. The joke that the only reason people go to Jets games is that they can't get Giants tickets was true for basketball: Pretty much the only games the Nets sold out were against the Knicks, Dr. J's 76ers, Larry Bird's Boston Celtics, Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers, and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls. The only time people went there were when they wanted to see those teams, and couldn't get into The Garden to see them play the Knicks.
The last game I went to there, the Nets played the San Antonio Spurs, then defending NBA Champions, with Eva Longoria still married to Spurs star Tony Parker, and she was there, and so were Jay-Z and Beyoncé. Attendance? About 12,000: The Spurs are great, but, as far as their playing goes, they're not "sexy."
Once the deal to move the Nets to Brooklyn was sealed in 2004, New Jersey, never truly in love with the Nets, abandoned them completely. The delays in getting the Barclays Center built made them a lame-duck team for 8 years -- twice as long as the Montreal Expos were. Newark didn't embrace them, either, even though Newark is a great basketball city.
The IZOD Center still stands, although most people have only ever called it "the Meadowlands Arena." Mostly, it hosts concerts and other family-friendly shows now, especially since its rent is a lot cheaper than The Garden, the Prudential and the Barclays. 50 New Jersey Route 120, East Rutherford. New Jersey Transit 320 bus out of Port Authority.
UPDATE: In January 2015, it was announced that the arena will close shortly, and its spring concert dates were moved to the Prudential Center. It look like it will be demolished soon, meaning that Governor Byrne may well outlive the arena formerly named for him.
* Prudential Center. Home to the Devils and Seton Hall University basketball since 2007 and the Nets from 2010 to 2012, the atmosphere isn't very good for basketball, but it's pretty good for hockey. I wish the Nets had stayed there instead of moving to Brooklyn: The City of Newark would have embraced them, and the State of New Jersey would have rediscovered them. Alas...
165 Mulberry Street at Edison Place. New Jersey Transit Northeast Corridor Line to Newark Penn Station, then a 5-minute walk.
* Other Sites. If you have more than 1 day (and more than a little money) to spend in and around New York, I do recommend the American Museum of Natural History (79th Street & Central Park West, C train to 81st Street), the Metropolitan Museum of Art (82nd Street & 5th Avenue, 4, 5 or 6 train to 86th Street and then walk 3 blocks west to 5th Avenue), the observation deck of the Empire State Building (34th Street & 5th Avenue, 2 blocks from The Garden, B, D, F, N, Q or R train to 34th Street-Herald Square and walk 1 block east), and the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace National Historic Site (the only President thus far born in The City was born at 28 East 20th Street, N or R train to 23rd Street).
The Borough has its own world-class Museum, the Brooklyn Museum, at 200 Eastern Parkway at Washington Avenue. 2 or 3 train to Eastern Parkway-Brooklyn Museum. It's at the top of Prospect Park, a 5-minute walk from the Brooklyn Public Library and Grand Army Plaza, with its impressive Civil War Monument. Prospect Park (designed by Frederick Law Olmstead, who also designed Central Park, Fairmount Park in Philadelphia and Boston's "Emerald Necklace") also has a famous carousel, the Prospect Park Zoo and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
From 1929 until 2010, the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower -- unlike the Brooklyn neighborhood, and the historic Virginia city of the same name, it has an H on the end -- with its Art Deco stylings and its clock tower, was the tallest building in the Borough, at 512 feet. 1 Hanson Place at Flatbush Avenue, on the other side of the Atlantic Terminal from the Barclays Center.
It has now been surpassed by The Brooklyner, a 515-foot-high apartment tower at 111 Lawrence Street at Willoughby Street, downtown. A, C or F train to Jay Street-MetroTech. It's a short walk from the Brooklyn Paramount, Borough Hall and 215 Montague Street at Cadman Plaza, the former location of the Dodgers' team offices, where Branch Rickey interviewed Jackie Robinson in 1945, told him of his plan to reintegrate baseball, and got him to agree to a contract. A bank is on the site now.
I can't recommend the Statue of Liberty for a tourist's visit, as it's not cheap, it's time-consuming both to get there and to get through, and the view from the crown isn't what you might hope. And the new World Trade Center isn't open yet, and the 9/11 Memorial is expensive and has long lines.
Plenty of movies have been set in Brooklyn, including the 1950 The Jackie Robinson Story starring the man himself, and the more recent 42 starring Chadwick Boseman; Dog Day Afternoon, the Al Pacino film about a real-life bank heist gone wrong; The French Connection, also a true story; Saturday Night Fever, based on a real Brooklyn disco; Sergio Leone's Once Upon a Time In America; some of Spike Lee's films, including Do the Right Thing; and the gang film The Warriors. Can you dig it?
TV has also used Brooklyn, no show more famous for doing so than Jackie Gleason's groundbreaking The Honeymooners. The address for the Kramdens and Nortons, 328 Chauncey Street, is real, off Howard Avenue, although it's in Bushwick, not Bensonhurst like the show claims. C train to Ralph Avenue, which may be where Gleason, who grew up at 358 Chauncey, got the name for the character. In contrast, Gary David Goldberg's 1990s show about growing up in 1950s Brooklyn, Brooklyn Bridge, was set in Bensonhurst.
The Patty Duke Show of the 1960s and The Cosby Show of the 1980s were both set in Brooklyn Heights, although both were taped in Los Angeles, and the townhouse used as the exterior for the Huxtables' home is actually in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. New Utrecht High School was used as the exterior set for both James Buchanan H.S. in the 1970s sitcom Welcome Back Kotter (series star Gabe Kaplan was both a graduate of, and a teacher at, that school before hitting it big as a comic) and Millard Fillmore H.S. in the 1980s sitcom Head of the Class, both on ABC. 1601 80th Street. D train to 79th Street.
Currently, Williamsburg is the setting for 2 Broke Girls, Greenpoint for Girls, and the police comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine in, as the title suggests, the 99th Precinct. New York cop shows usually use precincts that don't exist in real life: Barney Miller in the 1970s used the 12th, as does Castle now; Life On Mars used the 125th (the highest-numbered in real life is the 123rd), and the film Frequency (which, like Brooklyn Nine-Nine, featured Andre Braugher as a detectives' squad leader) used the 74th.
The Nets, under any name, are the only one of the New York Tri-State Area's 9 major league teams to have never won a World Championship -- although, if you count the ABA, they're still the last basketball team in the Area to win a league championship.
They may never "take over New York." The Knicks are simply too ingrained into The City's culture, despite their 40 years of failure, including some crushing near-misses and infuriating sabotages, both from without and from within.
But at least the Nets now give the impression of trying, of losing now being unacceptable. They're no longer just trying to survive in the Knicks' shadow. They've done the best possible thing they could do, short of winning a title: They have formed their own brand, marketing themselves not just as a Brooklyn team, but as a New York City team that happens to play in Brooklyn. It's not, "You can't get in to see the Knicks, so try us, we're a decent second choice." It's, "You're from New York, and you love basketball. We're in New York, and we play basketball, and we're going to be winning soon. Be a part of this. Knicks who?"
If you want to be a part of it, here's your chance to get in on the ground floor of something special. All they have to do now is keep their part of the bargain -- the way they didn't went they finally started winning in New Jersey.