The Brooklyn Nets open the 2018-19 season Wednesday, reinvigorating the fan in all of us with the magic that is opening night.
For four teams, it started on Tuesday. For the Brooklyn Nets, Wednesday night is the night we’ve been looking forward to since the end of last season.
There’s just something about opening night that makes even the most jaded fans among us get in touch with their inner optimist. Forget the forecasts of doom and gloom, forget the flaws that even you know are there — it’s opening night and it’s special.
It’s that one night each season where a fan can cut loose. Your team is undefeated and none of the problems and shortcomings you’ve been worried about have exhibited themselves yet.
Opening night is a night for dreams. This could be the year. This team can defy those dark expectations and make some noise. The rebuild really is further along than those so-called experts think it is. We could be a playoff team, right now.
How long that enthusiasm and optimism lasts depends on what the guys on the floor can actually do. But there will be time for that later. Tonight, the NBA is back, the Nets are back and we can’t help ourselves from dreaming the big dream.
I saw the Nets for the first time a long, long time ago now. It was October 1971.
I was 5 years old and went with my older brother, who lived in Manhattan at the time, to Island Garden in West Hempstead to see these really tall guys in red-white-and-blue uniforms throw around this really awesome-looking ball of the same color scheme.
Did I understand everything I was seeing? Are you kidding? But it was fast-moving, the colors flashing in front of my eyes as those tall guys ran up and down the floor and I was hooked.
And even as life moved on (and so did the Nets, from Island Garden in West Hempstead to Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, to various venues in New Jersey and finally to Brooklyn), the Nets have been a constant.
And every single year, I give in to that feeling of unbridled hope and anticipation on opening night. If you know the history of the Nets, you understand that feeling has more often than not been extinguished by the reality of the team on the floor.
Being a fan now is so much different and easier than ever. When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, it was hard to find the Nets on television — very hard.
If you didn’t have tickets to the game (or in my case, if Bruce didn’t have tickets to the game), you had to settle for the newspaper account.
Now? I can watch all 82 right down in what I call Worldwide Headquarters and even after all these years, the Nets are still appointment TV for me. Basketball wasn’t my best sport as I went through what passed for my athletic career (which topped out as a shoot-last point guard in high school).
But that didn’t stop the game from becoming my favorite. My wife hates the sound of sneaks squeaking on a hardwood floor. To me, it’s like injecting life force directly into a vein. So, I do most of my viewing in another room — an arrangement everyone involved is fine with.
It’s almost hard to comprehend this will be my 47th season following this team … at least until I glance in a mirror and see that grey-haired dude staring back at me where this dashing young guy used to be (my story, I’m sticking to it).
Intellectually, I understand this likely is not the year the Nets end that NBA title drought.
But for this one day out of 365 (or 176 if one wants to count the real calendar known as the NBA regular season), you can dare to dream.
It’s kind of what being a fan is all about.