Breaking Up is Hard to do
"What's so bad about staying on Long Island?"
I had an ex that moved to Brooklyn. She was my high school sweetheart. We stuck together through college… we were on the marriage express track. I understood that she wanted to move closer to the action after living her whole life in Suffolk County, but I wasn’t about to pay $1800 a month to live in a small Brooklyn apartment surrounded by other people’s idea of cool. I had an opportunity to open a branch of my dad’s business in Oyster Bay. Why would I pass that up to live amongst over-tattooed food snobs who supplement their trust funds by casually working in bars, media production, or some distant variant of PR?
The relationship dissolved. She opted for the excitement of Brooklyn after-hour parties, handsome mixologists, and round-the-clock stimulation of a young woman trying to make it in the big bad city. It hurt but I eventually got over it until it happened again.
Blowing up my Twitter feed: “The Islanders announced that they’ve agreed to move from Long Island to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center and share the $1 billion arena with the Nets…the Islanders have established a 25-year agreement to play at Barclays Center beginning in the 2015-16 season...their lease at Nassau Coliseum expires after the 2014-15 season.”
Shock, betrayal, confusion, anger, hurt. There had always been this fringe threat as the warmly nostalgic Nassau Coliseum corroded and the rest of the country built state-of-the-art mega stadiums. Even as the Barclays threat seemed more and more logical, a youthful lack of cynicism in me, the same place that used to believe in Santa Claus, never thought my Islanders would actually leave the same way my ex moved away.
The Islanders won’t look right in Brooklyn like so many other awkward transplants who moved there to feel special. It’s for all the wrong reasons and looks desperate. The Islanders are adored here. The team is our trophy allowing the rest of the country to identify us as Long Islanders unassociated from the boroughs.
Long Island rarely receives positive recognition due to our flashy siblings. There is little respect for the real Long Island. To most, it’s half Jersey and half mind-numbingly expensive lots. Those ’80s New York Islanders, four Stanley Cups in a row, gave a validation for working-class Long Island. They gave us individuality and respect in the eyes of the country. I was only a toddler during that historic run but I’ve seen its affect on Long Island pride my whole life.
I understand that Nassau County itself didn’t vote to rebuild the stadium and the Islanders’ owner, Charles Wang, and Barclays called their bluff. But that doesn’t have anything to do with actual Islanders fans, the people who love the team. It’s just political, one percenter bullshit. The Nassau County bigwigs gambled with our beloved team and the Brooklyn kingpins snatched it up.
Will they change the uniforms and have Tavares play in a flannel with skinny jeans and giant Bose headphones as a helmet? Any playoff beards would complete the Williamsburg look. Brooklyn fans won’t show up to losing season games like my boys and I did.
The positive spin is that the Islanders’ moving to Brooklyn will increase exposure for the sport and the team. I hate that my team has to be the sacrificial lamb in that plight, and I still don’t totally buy the ‘increased exposure’ line. That’s what they said when the NHL over-expanded with franchises in non-hockey towns like Atlanta, Columbus, Nashville, and Phoenix. And what resulted from that? No ’04 - ’05 season. It makes me sick to my stomach (just like it did when I pictured my ex fawning over some Prohibition-era cocktail bartender) to think of a skinny bearded guy with Buddy Holly glasses, vintage clothing (too cool for team gear), and brightly colored hand tattoos missing out on a breakaway because he’s more interested in staring at his iPhone.
I won’t go to Barclays, at least not for a while. How is it an Islanders game without the Coliseum’s well-worn charm? Maybe in a couple of years, when the sting wears off. Maybe if they’re in the playoffs. Part of me would have rather seen them move to a small Canadian market instead of down the LIRR. Those fans would’ve cared for them like we did. I sound like a father hoping his daughter will marry a respectful Canadian rather than date a Brooklyn DJ.
I hold out hope that Nassau County will eventually rebuild the Coliseum and try to lure the Islanders to opt out of their Barclays contract. (First, we gotta get Wang to sell the team.) But for now I’m a man going through a breakup. Both my ex and the Islanders left me for something that I bitterly regard as flashy excitement.
I wonder if this is going to put Long Island in a rut of insubstantiality. We’ve always been in the shadow of Manhattan, but now Brooklyn? I can’t compete with two older brothers beating up on me and stealing my toys. In the grand scheme, it’s not that big of a deal. I have all my limbs and no one is dying over this. However, I wanted to get one last rant in before the puck drops in Brooklyn, and everyone quickly accepts the change. The Islanders leaving Nassau is a scar on Long Island pride and a major loss for what we as Long Islanders who love and appreciate being this side of JFK represent. It was the one major team we could call our own, and we let her get away. “I’ll miss you baby. Can’t wait for you to come home.” •