Internet Fight Continues Over Whether Jeffrey Gamblero Was A ‘True’ Nets Fan Deserving Of Respect After His Death
Unless you're a Nets fan, you probably hadn't heard of Jeffrey Gamblero until he was unceremoniously tossed from Madison Square Garden a couple of weeks ago, thanks to a video of the ejection that went viral -- Gamblero, carried kicking and screaming from his seat by security, missing a prosthetic leg. It was by turns grotesque and sad, but not nearly as sad as the news that Gamblero died on Sunday after reportedly leaping from his father's second-story window in Queens.
Gamblero's ejection made news not just because of what happened, but who he was -- famous among Barclays Center attendees for donning neon shirts under his Nets jersey, dancing in the aisles, wearing the kind of frames that Kanye West might rock, he was loud and ostentatious and energetic in a way that people either found entertaining or annoying, depending on whether they had a sense of humor or not. Among a fanbase that has garnered a reputation as being, in a word, lame (Toronto's enthusiasm flat out embarrassed Brooklyn's effort in last year's playoffs), Gamblero stood out.
Unfortunately, if you put yourself in the limelight, you make yourself available to people who would rather tear you down than build you up. Gamblero came under fire for having switched allegiances from the Knicks to the Nets when the latter moved to Brooklyn from New Jersey, and as masterfully recounted by Tom Lorenzo of NetsDaily, he was often criticized as not being a "true" Nets "superfan," as he was billed.
True Nets fans, of course, were born in the Meadowlands swamp and have a tattoo of Kerry Kittles on one thigh, Keith Van Horn on the other. If you've ever liked the Knicks, or rooted for any other team, you are barred from being excited about the Brooklyn iteration. Perhaps your children can inherit them, but you must be buried with your Latrell Sprewell jersey.
As any rational person knows, taking the stance that only YOU can truly appreciate a team because you've known them/rooted for them longer is preposterous. Sports are important (if not, what am I doing with my life? I'd rather not ask), and being a good fan equally so, but there is no arbiter of "true" sports fandom. In my estimation, much of the hate Gamblero got stemmed from the fact that he was popular and given preferential treatment by the team; those who followed the team from New Jersey wanted that kind of love.
The fact is, if there ever was a time for someone to make a switch from the Knicks to the Nets, it was when the Nets moved to Flatbush. As a life-long Knicks fan, I strongly considered jumping ship back in 2012 myself. Being a Knicks fan is hard. The Nets stadium is mere blocks from where I grew up. James Dolan is an asshole. Kevin Garnett is the man. To be a sports fan is to struggle, but I'd lived through too many failed Patrick Ewing finger rolls and contracts to guys like Jerome James to not give the Nets a thought. I eventually decided against it, but only because I am stubborn. I never begrudged anyone who felt differently.
Love or hate Gamblero for his ostentatious outfits and manner, but recognize that he beloved by many in the Barclays Center, from fellow fans to the Nets players themselves ( “We get plenty of negative attitude from fans, home and away, and he always brought positive energy and he always had our back. He was there for us," said Brook Lopez). And, at minimum, recognize the man's humanity, and don't say things like this:
— BrooklynGinger (@BrooklynGinger) December 15, 2014
There was also quite a bit of fallout from Lorenzo's article after he embedded a tweet from another unofficial Nets mascot who goes by Brooklyn Cowbell Guy, who apparently had long-running beef with Gamblero for -- you guessed it -- not being a "diehard" fan. @BKCowbellGuy has since deleted his account and threatened Lorenzo with a libel lawsuit, because he heard that word once on "Law & Order" and thinks it applies to people embedding his own tweets, perhaps.
There was, for the record, an outpouring of support and well-wishes for Gamblero and his family from a large segment of the social media community. Only a select few insist on making sure people know they are just as much of a fan as Gamblero was and forever will be, or defending the honor of a guy who doesn't know how Internet works. There was also the New York Post, but we try not to talk about them.
There will be a pre-game tribute to Gamblero before tonight's game at Barclays.
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