Friday, October 19, 2012

Don Draper's Basketball Team

In the first season of Mad Men, the final episode closes out with Don Draper pitching a campaign to Kodak executives to sell their new "photo wheel."  The pitch is pure Draper, emotional, heartfelt, and right on the money. He evokes nostalgia as he cycles through photos of his family. Draper says, "In Greek, nostalgia literally means, 'the pain from an old wound." 

It's a pitch that he would use if he was campaigning for the Brooklyn Nets

You would be hard pressed to find a bigger collective wound in the sports world than one left by the Brooklyn Dodgers when they moved to Los Angeles in 1957. 

 Brooklyn waited a long time for that wound to heal. No one expected that the 22-44 New Jersey Nets to fill the hole that was left by the Dodgers, a team rich with the history. But the Brooklyn marketing campaign has successfully woven its way in to the cultural mosaic of Brooklyn. We don't know how this team is going to be on the court yet, but they're going to be a media force and fun to follow.

The organization has proved itself to be different than it's crosstown competitor, the Knicks. That organization shot itself in the foot this summer when they let go their most likable and marketable star, Jeremy Lin. The 'Melo and Amare show still has not proved itself to their fans. Their most memorable playoff moment came when Amare punched in a fire extinguisher case. They Knicks have been the most popular NBA laughingstock of the last decade. They have not won more than 49 games since the 2000 season. They are an embarrassment and fans have found other teams to support in that time. They have't gripped the passions of the city like the Yankees and Giants have. 

The Nets have not been much better on the court. Their 12-win 2010 season was one of the worst in NBA history. This team wasn't winning any fans on the court. They couldn't just move to Brooklyn and expect fans to come, they had to transform and become a part of Brooklyn. 

image via Grantland.

And they've done a good job so far. Their sleek Jay-Z designed logo removed the frills of their god-awful 3D shield. Their arena, the Barclay's center opened up with a 8-day run of concerts by HOVA. They've also done some decent work for on the court work as well by signing Joe Johnson and getting Gerald Wallace. This team doesn't have it all together yet, but it's said "We're here for you Brooklyn." It's what New York basketball fans have been waiting for. 

 Borough president Marty Markowitz even fired the first shot in the Knicks-Nets rivalry. "It's treason to support the other borough's team," he said during a rally that proclaimed Joe Johnson & Deron Williams day. This team isn't riding in on its laurels, because it doesn't have any. It's creating that connection to establish themselves as part of the borough.

Sports are bigger than just businesses. They are culture. They are part of a community. And the good ones can evoke that pain of nostalgia that makes us love them all that much more.  

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