I know. How could I be a comic dork ALSO be a sports fan?!? Can that exist?!? Even though some still seem to think that it’s not possible….here I am! A diehard sports guy through and through. Growing up just outside of New York in the armpit of America known as New Jersey, I mainly route for local teams but have a few distant ones that are close seconds.
It probably all started when I was a little booger eater. I remember my dad taking us to Yankee games in the Bronx. We went to a decent amount of games and I was instantly hooked. Seeing Don Mattingly, Dave Winfield, and Ricky Henderson play was a real treat for a youngster. Winfield was my favorite player growing up and I have a doozy of a story to tell surrounding that…but I will save it for a @comedyopenmic in the near future.
I also collected baseball cards along with the rest of America in the 80’s and 90’s. The thousands of dollars I pumped into those attending shows with my pop’s and going to local comic and card shops have resulted in an astounding stockpile of unsellable dogshit. Cards from that timeframe are for the most part…worthless. I still have them somewhere tucked away in the attic. 1987 Topps is the bane of my existence. Those ugly ass cards that featured Bo Jackson Future Stars and a shitty wood grain border are some of the worst out there. Somewhere in a box I have a stack of 87′ Topps Pat Perry cards that I should have burnt ages ago.
Anyway, I am a diehard Yanks fan and was even at the final game in the original Yankee Stadium before they bulldozed it. I guess when it comes to being a baseball fan, I have for the most part been a bit spoiled in my lifetime. Since I was birthed into this world, they have won 5 World Series and lost 3. Then the other magical or even solid years of competing. Sure, there were some lean years mixed in but as a Yankees fan I always KNEW they would be back in it again next year.
Hockey…I am a Devils guy through and through although I will admit to losing a lot of interest around the time that our Hall of Fame goalie Marty Brodeur leaving the team and then retiring. Those years that we were winning the Cup and contending?!? Some of the most exciting. It also helped that my neighbor was the team photographer and would give us tickets often. It was a nutty time. I remember just hanging out after the games at the main entrance of the shitty Brendan Byrne Arena at the Meadowlands and all the players would just come out and sign for the fans. Claude Lemieux & Ken Daneyko were always nice guys who seemed to appreciate the fans. Kinda miss hockey now as I just follow the scores and standings…not the games, but it is what it is.
Football is probably…I don’t want to say my least favorite sport to watch…but more like the one I am the least passionate about. I have followed the Giants most of my life although not hardcore. I used to get tickets to their games a lot when younger as well but I prefer watching from the comforts of my own home. I have been blessed to see them win 4 Super Bowl Championships during my lifetime with 08′ and 12′ being freaking masterpieces and some of my favorites.
Which leads us to Basketball…I have and always will be a Nets fan. I used to go to games to see Kenny Anderson and Derrick Coleman and always loved the pace of the game. Basketball is by far my favorite sport. I follow the NBA fairly hardcore and even was a season ticket holder for the nets when they left the shitty Meadowlands and played at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey…before bailing from this godforsaken state all together and setting in Brooklyn. All of which I don’t blame them one bit for.
Being a Nets fan was always pretty tough. Outside of a handful of years, they have mostly been a disappointment. The laughing stock of the league for long periods and stretches. I have received my share of ridicule for not only following this team, but for believing in them…even when I should not have.
The Nets “Glory Years” for me and most, will consist of the early 2000’s. It was the usual story. The Nets were a joke and something had to be done. So they made a questionable move that changed the landscape of the league for years. They decided to trade for a troubled Jason Kidd who was playing for the Suns at that point. He had just been involved in a not so flattering incident and was a black eye on the organization. In 2001 he was traded to the Nets and the rest is history.
Along with Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn, Kenyon Martin, Jason Collins, and Richard Jefferson….they won over 50 games in the 01-02 season and advanced to the Finals for the first time. Sadly they got swept by the Lakers that year as Kobe and Shaq were in fuckin beast mode. The crazy part is that I had to move out to Los Angeles for the Nets to get good. I *HATED* the fact that I was living in LA during this time. So Cal was disgusting in their love for the Lakers and I was a lowly Nets fan who got 0 respect in a sea of Purple & Gold.
The next year was more of the same. Kidd revitalizing this team and bringing it to back to back Finals appearances…this time against Tim Duncan and the Spurs. It was a really good series though. We lost 4-2 but I loved how they played. They had the lead in game 6 but Steve Kerr went on a tear from downtown and we sadly fell apart and never recovered that final game.
Those years and the few after that were a fantastic time to be one of the 38 Nets fans on the planet. Kidd dazzling with his magical assists. Martin’s emphatic dunks and feasting off of the crowd. RJ’S athleticism. Then the addition of Vince Carter?!? Holy shit!!! We never got back to the Finals since then but there were some really good years.
Then some not so good ones. A 12-70 season that saw so much heartache. Coach after coach after coach being dismissed for not doing anything even remotely respectable. The abandonment of New Jersey for Brooklyn. The crippling trade with the Celtics that brought us old bums and locked us up for years. The lone bright spot in the past decade in my opinion had been Brook Lopez. One of my favorite players.
Brook is one of the Lopez twins who along with his brother Robin, play in the league. They are both mellow and approachable dudes. Both gigantic comic book nerds. Brook has dressed up and attended the big comic cons before. They are giant Disney fans…not what you would expect out of a pair of 7 footers who are 2 of the 450 players in the league.
Sadly Brook was traded away 2 years back to the Lakers in exchange for D’Angelo Russell who up until recently…hasn’t been showing us a ton. The potential has always been there…we were all just waiting for him to break through that barrier that was holding him back. To mature and take over which is exactly what he has been doing. Along with a young core of misfits and reclamation projects, D League journeymen, rookies, and a smattering of veteran leadership…have turned into one of the best stories of the season.
Following an ok start to the season, their young Shooting Guard Caris LeVert went down with what looked like an extremely serious foot injury. Luckily the news is he will be back sometime this season. Then came more adversity as we watched the Nets work through an 8 game losing streak that showcased this young squad’s inability to close out games. The silver lining to take during this frustrating stretch was coach Kenny Atkinson allowing others to step up and do their part….and do it they did. They followed up the 8 game losing streak with a 7 game win streak and have been 16-5 since recovering from the 8 L’s making them one of the hottest teams in the league.
Their past 2 games have been huge! Wednesday they squared off against James Harden and the Rockets in a game which saw them overcome an 8 point deficit with a minute left to push it to overtime, just to have them fall behind again by 7 with a minute left again and then triumph by being clutch. Friday against a talented Orlando squad started off rough. They looked slow on the defensive end and the game quickly ballooned to the Magic boasting a 21 point lead. Well…it was like Deja Vu! This young Nets squad chipped away to have their 2 guards it back to back 3’s to take the lead and hold them off for the W. 2 unlikely come from behind wins from a squad who would not have worked that magic just a month prior.
The best part about it is we should expect one of our best players back in the coming months just in time for a solid playoff push. As it stands right now, the Nets are 24-23…just over 500. To put their growth the past few years into perspective…this time last year they were 17-29 and the year prior they were 12-34. This is all due to the brilliant work put forward by the GM Sean Marks along with who should be a coach of the year candidate in Kenny Atkinson for his amazing player development. I am expecting this team to make a solid playoff push this season and ya never know…maybe win a series. Either way, it’ll give these kids a taste of that postseason action that they will be feasting on for years to follow. Their time is coming…
I honestly believe that this team is something special and I haven’t felt this excited for watching my Nets since the Kidd era in the early to mid 2000’s. We have finally broke free from the restraints of the horrific trade with the Celtics. We will have our picks back with this next upcoming draft along with a few others that we negotiated for in trades the past 2 years. We will have cap space to sign one or two big free agents and for the first time, I think some of the big names will actually consider Brooklyn as a realistic possibility. There has been a culture change here. From the top down to the bottom, folks in the organization are coming together as a team. They are buying in and growing right before our eyes. It’s an exciting time to be a Nets fan again…and those are words that haven’t realistically been uttered in over a decade.