In light of the recent controversy questioning the passion of Nets fans, Macarena and Ines arrived at the Barclays Center on Friday like two rays of sun after Thursday’s rain. Hailing from Montevideo, they reflect not only the continued international growth of the NBA, but the power of Brooklyn as a brand and an icon.
As with Jonny Black from Northern Ireland, Matt Encarnacion from Australia, and Hendrick Agosto from Indonesia, the 23-year-old students from the coastal capital of Uruguay are first and foremost die hard Nets fans. They bought their tickets from BrooklynNets.com as soon as they were made available, and booked their vacation surrounding this game, hoping it would get to a game 6. But how did they become Nets fans? What about this team earned their devotion?
First to the NBA was Macarena. Many people become fans of a sport through games like the EA Sports franchises. Her ex-boyfriend was constantly playing and soon she was hooked. It was not long until she started watching games and learned to appreciate both the subtleties of team chemistry and the artistry of individual domination.
Her best friend Ines soon came onboard as well. When it came time to choose a favorite team to represent them in the video game as well as in real life, the Nets were a no-brainer. Not only did the team have great players and good characters guys, they represented the borough of Brooklyn. Out of all the places in the USA, this is the city that resonated. They told me, "Brooklyn feels more like a neighborhood, a community…"
Herein lies the crux: Brooklyn is more than just a brand: it is an icon. Brooklyn Brewery is now in Stockholm; a coffee shop in Amsterdam is named for one of its iconic neighborhoods. The borough represents so many things to so many people, but a singular thread runs through it: soul. The diversity, racial or otherwise, spoke to Macarena and Ines. From hipsters to hip hop, Asians to Arabs, the culture of Brooklyn represents a certain ideal to many people overseas that most Americans just don’t understand.
Macarena and Ines also see the immigrant communities, struggling for a better life. Artists and entrepreneurs, creating and pushing boundaries. All of this melds into the soul, the spirit, contained in Brooklyn. Of course, artists such as Jay-Z and Biggie have helped to spread this romantic image of grit, perseverance, and dreams. This only further proves that this phenomenon is organic, well underway before the Nets made their move. And now, there is only one team representing this feeling.
After the game, we met up at the 40/40 Club. They were so excited and happy with the energy they felt in the arena. Yep, read it again: they were excited by the energy in the arena! This is coming from people who are used to super partisan soccer hooligans at stadiums. Surprising to them though, was the fact that they were sitting next to two Raptors fans. Apparently, this would never fly at any professional soccer or basketball game in South America. Seeing this as a unique opportunity, they screamed their hearts out and even modified the fight song of their favorite local soccer club to fit the Nets vs. Raptors.
While soccer is of course, by and far, the most popular sport in South America, professional basketball is quickly gaining steam. The Brooklyn Nets are uniquely poised to be at the forefront. Two years in, the Nets already have die hard international fans.
Macarena and Ines’ travels will take them through Miami next weekend and they will most definitely attend if the Nets make it to the next round. Their one hope is to get a chance to meet their favorite players, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. In my book, they would certainly be deserving.
Salud Macarena and Ines, and GO NETS!