Sports, Solace, & NYC



In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastating impact on the New York metropolitan area, the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks -– who were set to take center court for the highly anticipated regular-season opener of Barclays Center on Thursday -– will both tip-off this weekend, providing much needed relief to a distressed city.

In a news conference Wednesday afternoon, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg revealed to the media, and thousands of disjointed basketball fans that at his recommendation, the Nets’ scheduled debut in Brooklyn is postponed. The news came a day after the NBA announced the game would be played as planned. The league consulted with the mayor’s office on Wednesday and a reversal of its decision was made, due to shutdowns of the city’s subway system that would’ve caused significant problems for fans trying to attend the game. Nets’ general manager, Billy King, and his Knicks counterpart, Glen Grunwald, confirmed the postponement, shortly after the mayor’s address.

The game was left in doubt for most of the week as city officials worked to recover from Monday’s treacherous storm, which knocked out mass transit, left several areas without electricity, thousands of homes destroyed and people killed in the five boroughs. According to The New York Times, the NBA has postponed 12 regular-season games since 2000, mostly because of severe weather and weather-related travel issues. League officials have set a high bar for what warrants a postponement. As a general rule, they will allow a game to go on as long as both teams and the referees can safely reach the arena, even if the game is played before only a few thousand fans.

The rescheduled game is another blow to New Yorkers, who woke up to submerged neighborhoods, inundated highways and tunnels, and blacked-out areas without running water. New York has faced very dark times before. After 9/11, millions of New Yorkers united after the horrific terrorist attacks at ground zero to set in motion one of the largest recovery efforts the nation as ever seen. It is New York’s innate ability to withstand disaster and tragedy that makes the city so resilient. Its makeup lies in our courage not just to bounce back, but also to unite as a team and rebound better and stronger than ever. And it expects its sports teams to possess the same grit and fearlessness to move ahead when things get tough, to raise the city’s spirits.

Five days after the attacks, the New York Yankees returned to Yankee Stadium for a workout, with then manager Joe Torre saying at the time that he hoped baseball’s return would help people get back to normalcy. A month after the attacks, the Yanks faced the Arizona Diamondbacks in the World Series for Game 3 in the Bronx. A tattered flag rescued from the World Trade Center site flapped in the pitch-black sky above the stadium. With Challenger the Eagle soaring over the field, then-President George W. Bush threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which was a strike down the heart of the plate to Yankees backup catcher Todd Greene. It was in that 2001 World Series that Derek Jeter earned his nickname, “Mr. November,” with a 10th-inning game-winning homer in Game 4. And, although, the Diamondbacks went on to win in seven games -– the franchise’s first title -– it was a time in which the Yankees represented more than baseball. The responsibility of wearing “New York” across their chests served as a distraction when the city desperately needed one the most.

Now, it’s time for the Nets and the Knicks to proudly wear Brooklyn and New York across their chest, respectively, and offer the New York metropolitan area momentary solace. Nets and Barclays Center CEO Brett Yormark told WFAN radio on Wednesday that the two teams “can be, in many respects, a rallying cry for New York.” Although, a make-up date has not been announced for the subway rivalry, the Nets and the Knicks will have their chance to get New York back on the right track this weekend.

The Nets’ home and season-opener will now be Saturday night against the Toronto Raptors. The Knicks will host the defending NBA champion Miami Heat at Madison Square Garden on Friday.

Game on, New York.

Image: The Brooklyn Nets