The first things you notice about a team's home stadium are involuntary; things only your senses can control such as colors, aroma of the arena, music playing, food you eat, and much more.
You can say what you want about the Nets' success on the floor, but when you go to a basketball game in Brooklyn, you know very well where you're at.
At first, you notice the black & white coat surrounding the arena from top to bottom, signifying the Brooklyn Nets, and more importantly, Brooklyn as a whole.
You smell some sort of pleasant cologne, which later disintegrates into the fresh smell of the different foods. Fitting for Brooklyn.
Then you walk into a twilight zone of black seats and dark lighting surrounding the glistening herringbone court. Again, coated with black and white. And of course, you hear and feel the bass from the hip-hop being played, mostly Brooklyn-born rappers like Notorious B.I.G. & Jay-Z.
This is a Brooklyn Nets game. This is a culture being formed with the help of proper entertainment and marketing strategies.
The Nets went from 31st in merchandise (behind the extinct Seattle SuperSonics), to fourth when they moved to Brooklyn and changed the color scheme.
And then I went to Barclays Center to watch a New York Islanders home game.
Being from Long Island, I had been to a lot of Islander games at the Coliseum. I understand the culture change that's (trying to happen) with the Nets & Islanders, the main identity (and differences) between these franchises is clear, despite sharing the borough.
So I walked up the steep stairs in section 226 and saw the Islanders fans' blue and orange jerseys swallowed by the dark black seats. The entire arena was lit up, unlike the Nets' hidden upper decks.
The main sign of awkwardness: it was quiet, the islanders were down 2-0 after the first period and I could feel the sense of disappointment in the entire experience alone.
It's understandable after the long history of memories made at the Coliseum.
At rare glance, I saw fans rocking the Islanders' black and white alternate jerseys - the same ones that have caused chaos amongst the LI faithful. It seems unnatural because the combination of black & white and the Isles' blue & orange are in no way related.
It's the Islanders becoming more ‘Brooklyn', which I understand especially watching the Nets, a team that markets Brooklyn and the black and white colors to maximum capacity. It sells.
Brett Yormark has expressed his desire to re-brand a team that finished last in attendance in 2013.
"The colors black and white are the new badge of honor in Brooklyn. The question is, can we weave that into the [Islanders] color scheme, and create a connection to the fans here in Brooklyn?" Yormark asked.
Yormark & Brooklyn have every reason to do so. It's not like Barclays Center NEEDED the Islanders. In fact, the Islanders NEEDED Barclays and Brooklyn to stay anywhere close to Long Island.
Without Brooklyn, two alternatives were Kansas City and Quebec City. Nassau County had plenty of opportunities to remodel the Coliseum, but failed to do so. And here we are, with hockey in Brooklyn, and things seemingly very off. Almost as much as the giant scoreboard that's placed on one side of the ice.
First thought: This definitely isn't a hockey arena.
Yeah, I can see why that would tick some fans off. Also, it's weird to see practically zero fans behind one of the nets on the opposite side of scoreboard, because all the seats have obstructed views. Again, I can see why fans would be ticked off.
Obstructed areas in Barclays empty, as expected. Not pretty pic.twitter.com/0pp7DIuOHG— Anthony Puccio (@APooch) October 15, 2015
[Mostly] everything seemed off about the Islanders being in Brooklyn.
Until, they scored a goal.
The place got LOUD. The fans began to chant in symphony, "NETS, NETS, NE --" I mean, "YES, YES, YES...!" for at least 15 seconds.
It was natural. It was a tradition.
It was actual enjoyment being shown for the most important thing, and the number one marketing tool: winning.
Quite frankly since Brooklyn, the Nets have been good, but really nothing better. They were/are GREAT at marketing and being engulfed into a ‘Brooklyn' culture, but tradition is something the Islanders can help the Nets with.
For example, take the Nets' "Broooo-klynn" chant, originally heard at a preseason game in Atlantic City, prior to the team's first season in Brooklyn. It's something that CAN be special, similar to the Islanders "YES!" goal chant, if it wasn't forced so much.
When it's heard from the crowd after a big play, it has the capability to send chills down ones spine in the dark, theatrically vibed Barclays Center. Instead, it's been blasted in the speakers at unnecessary times. An effort to force something that really can't be forced: tradition.
The same way you can't blame Isles fans for feeling upset about the new home, you can't blame the Nets for trying to do what's best to build a fanbase. But if they take some tips from the Islanders, they'll find out the best recipe in doing that is by winning and sticking to whom you are.
For me, it showed that a team's tradition will never die, not through colors, not through a change of arena or city.
But keeping that in mind, you have to market your product and if you're the Islanders in Long Island: If you weren't winning, you weren't selling. And even still in 2013, the Islanders WERE winning but weren't selling seats.
In terms of money, can they get worse than the past 10 years for the Isles? They've been in the bottom five in attendance each year, with last season being their best in that span -- ranking 25th in the NHL.
They're here for 25 more years. If they don't market, then no culture is formed and no money is made.
That night, the Islanders came back to score four unanswered goals and eventually beat the Predators, 4-3, in a very close ending. Fans went home happy and chanted, "YES, YES, YES!" as the players showed their appreciation for the crowd.
The game served as a metaphor for what's to come for Islander fans in Brooklyn. It might be tough at first, but with time (and success), things will end up being OK.
So now, the neighboring teams with two potentially different seasons ahead can learn from each other. The Islanders may not want to re-brand or change anything because of tradition, but in order to sell; they must do it similar to the Nets way.
And for the Nets - whom are in a "bridge year"- can take note from the new team on the Brooklyn block. Winning is ALWAYS the best marketing strategy.
There's always a BIG possibility we see: "Barclays Center, Home of the Stanley Cup Champion Islanders" before we ever see "Barclays Center, Home of the NBA Champion Nets."