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Blessed Nets fan

Brian Hartnett | Tuesday, March 27, 2012

For most of my life, I believed the sports gods, those mythical beings who determine the fate of professional sports teams, would always be generous to me. As a New York Yankees and New York Giants fan, I have witnessed my professional sports teams win seven championships in my lifetime.

Somewhere along the way, however, I violated a cardinal rule for New York-area sports fans, one certain to condemn me to a disappointing fan experience: I chose to support the New Jersey Nets, possibly the most irrelevant franchise in professional sports.

I know what you’re thinking.

Yes, it’s those Nets, the team who is relegated to the 50-minute mark of SportsCenter.

Yes, it’s those Nets, the team whose most recognizable player is forward Kris Humphries, better known as the former “Mr. Kardashian.”

Yes, it’s those Nets, the team whose home, Prudential Center, resembles a sea of black during games due to the large volume of no-shows.

My reasons for liking the Nets seemed innocent enough. As a resident of the much-maligned Garden State, I felt immense pride at seeing a team representing New Jersey instead of the big metropolis across the Hudson River.

Truth be told, being a Nets fan wasn’t painful initially, as my first years watching the team coincided with the Nets reaching consecutive NBA finals behind the play of flashy point guard Jason Kidd.

Naturally, the Nets management proved to be its biggest enemy and returned the team to its familiar cellar-dwelling position in a few years, trading off the team’s stars and inexplicably deciding to move it to the greener … errr, more concrete pastures of Brooklyn for the 2012-13 season.

As a result, the Nets currently resemble a rag-tag band of basketball misfits, a revolving door of uninspiring young players and washed-up veterans that have made a habit of losing.

And yet I still watch, even as the Nets coast to their fifth straight losing season. Why?

As cliché as it sounds, watching the Nets has allowed me to appreciate the little things in sports. With no grandiose expectations for the team, I can enjoy witnessing talented rookie guard Marshon Brooks emerge into a contributor, or watching forward Gerald Green perform spectacular dunks. I relish seeing the rare occurrences when center Johan Petro remembers he’s an NBA player and watching star point guard Deron Williams carry the team to victory, as he did in an impressive 57-point performance earlier this month.

I also tune in, well, because I don’t really have a choice – my two younger brothers have made it a goal to become the biggest Nets fans alive and watch their games the same way I watch Notre Dame football, screaming, questioning every decision and showing no restraint in cheering. From watching the team, we have created great memories, the latest of which involved us going to a Nets game for the price of a movie ticket.

So, although I endure another season with no playoff hopes for the Nets, I find myself strangely at peace. After all, as I write this column I spy a Super Bowl XVLI Champions shirt on my desk, as well as a calendar marked with the date of the Yankees season-opener. Yes, I think the sports gods still like me.

Contact Brian Hartnett at [email protected]

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.