A version of this piece was published in The Brooklyn Spectator on November 5th, 2012.
Four days after Hurricane Sandy slammed New Jersey, Leslie Ruse’s house in West Milford still had no electricity.
But that didn’t stop Ruse, a fan of the New Jersey Nets for more than 21-years, from leaving her abode to see the new Brooklyn Nets’ home opening game on Saturday night. Ruse and a friend ventured from New Jersey to the Port Authority by a public bus and then hopped on a free chartered Barclay’s Center-bound shuttle bus.
“It means I’m getting out,” Ruse said about going to the game while wearing an old New Jersey Nets blue and white jacket and hat with the old NJ-shield logo. “There’s light and you can go to the bathroom. It’s a nice reprieve to go to the game.”
Even after torrential weather from Hurricane Sandy left many residents and city transportation disheveled, many New Jersey fans to the sold-out Brooklyn Nets home opener through free shuttle buses to witness the revival of the basketball team in Brooklyn.
The Nets released information about the free shuttle buses, available subway lines, buses, cabs and car and bicycle parking spaces on its website on Friday, making commuting easier for fans.
“After everything the city has been through this week we wanted to make sure those that wanted to see the game could get to see the game,” said Mandy Gutmann, a representative for the Nets.
More than 400 passengers, many from New Jersey, Manhattan and the Bronx, caught the shuttle buses from Port Authority on a first-come-first-serve basis to get to the Barclay’s Center hours before the game. The buses waited outside the arena after the game to drop them back off at the Port Authority. “This is carpool at its largest,” Gutmann said standing outside the buses.
The Nets and Best Trails & Travels are planning to supply shuttle buses from New Jersey during the regular season, according a representative of the bus company. After Hurricane Sandy rocked the subway system the Nets asked the bus company for the special round-trip buses.
The Nets’ original home opener on Thursday against the rival New York Knicks was cancelled after Mayor Michael Bloomberg asked the National Basketball Association to postpone the game due to transit limitations.
Although Brooklyn trains were running again on Thursday, no subway trains could connect Brooklyn to Manhattan, because of flooded subway tubes and a massive black-out of lower Manhattan.
The Barclays’ Center heavily relies on the nine subway lines and Long Island Rail Road service in the Atlantic Ave-Barclay’s Center station directly underground to transfer a bulk of about 18,000 anticipated fans for each Nets game.
“It was a great idea,” Aly Goldenberg, vice president of Best Trails & Travels, said about the Manhattan shuttle buses. “When you’re going to a game you want to be at ease. You don’t want to be frustrated.”
Spenser Frieri and Danny LoGiudice, “huge Nets fans” from Union, New Jersey, weren’t affected much by the hurricane on Monday, but were planning to go to the cancelled Thursday home opener regardless of the downed subway system by renting a car. “When we say we’re big Nets fans, we are big Nets fans,” Frieri said.
After the home opener was rescheduled to Saturday Frieri, 20, and LoGiudice, 20, heard there would be free shuttle buses through multiple posts on the “The magical Twitter,” LoGiudice said and they decided to take buses to Manhattan to catch the shuttle.
“Not all subways are running there so we had to take buses and stuff like this,” Frieri said. “This is great the Nets are going this.”
The Brooklyn Nets rewarded fans with a 107-100 win over the Toronto Raptors and free commemorative T-shirts so they’ll never forget the night. However, some fans thought it wasn’t worth it to go through great lengths to get to the game.
“It was a waste of money,” said Bedford-Stuyvesant resident Kristian Sawyer, who caught the train to the game. “If you brought tickets to this event and due to the traffic and gas shortage couldn’t make it, it was a waste.” He added people should have just given their tickets to others who could make it. But some fans absolutely had to be there.
“It’s a once in a lifetime thing,” said Rodney Ferguson referring to the Nets’ first game. Ferguson, a Nets’ fan for 17 years, took a nearly five-hour bus ride from Maryland with his girlfriend to Manhattan to catch the free shuttle bus.
The question was never whether they were going to the game it was how they were getting back. “We’re worried about that,” Ferguson said with relaxed smile.