It’s not really a stretch to say that the New Jersey Nets were the most important thing in my life for awhile. I was in middle school, when such a thing is marginally less pathological or embarrassing than it would be now, but nothing really justifies the level of devotion I felt for what were, in retrospect, some pretty crappy Nets teams. No one understood Derrick Coleman. Everyone doubted Sam Bowie. No one would give Tate George a chance to show what he could do. (Tate George! I felt that way) The adolescent transference was total, intense, rageful. Middle school’s a tough time, but…yeah. I’ve written about this before — both here and in this anthology from a few years ago. (Used and new from $.01!)

I bring this up often because I only really know how to write like three types of CSTB post, but also because I’m reminded of it every time the Nets franchise — which was pretty embarrassing then, when it was owned by a gaggle of tacky, squabbling Jersey plutocrats, but at least was that way in earnest — finds a clever new way to humiliate it self. This can be attempting to dig up a neighborhood and build an under-desired monument to cross-branding gaucherie with mooched public funds. It can be dumping stars in flagrant cost-cutting moves, then trotting poor Rod Thorn out onto TV to do interviews that look like hostage videos. It can be turning the simple experience of attending a basketball game into a frontal assault of brands and sponsorships and noise and a thousand flavors of inautheticity. It’s mostly all of those things.

The Nets’ marketing guy — a frank and cynical twerp named Brett Yormark — is good at cooking stuff like this up, and clearly wields a lot of power in the organization. But even by his previous standards, the Nets’ newest idea is pretty embarrassing. Bad teams have always marketed the better teams that blow into town to blow out the unwatchable home squad — the Nets used to do this a lot when I was young. But Yormark has recently taken things a step further into Bad Idea Jeans territory, the AP’s Tom Canavan reports:

The Nets on Thursday announced a special 10-game “Match-Up” ticket plan through which their fans can also get a collection of reversible jerseys with the uniforms of LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade and Howard on one side and the jersey of the Nets’ player that will match up against the visiting star on the other.

Fans who purchase two sets of tickets under the plan will get one set of five jerseys.

“The reality of the situation is that we target the casual sports fan in New Jersey and New York, ” Nets chief executive Brett Yormark said. “As much as they like the Nets, they also like the opposing star players. The Match-Up plan enables us to market our players as well as the star players in the league. We’re a young team, the NBA is a league of stars, and we’re not ashamed to say that our fans are coming to watch the opposing star players as much as ours.”

As innovative as it is disrespectful and tone-deaf! Taken in concert with the Nets’ formal decision to remove the words “New Jersey” from their uniforms entirely, cheering for the Nets is increasingly like cheering for the Margaret Whitton-owned Indians in Major League. At the blog Fans for Fair Play, Scott M.X. Turner gets all Paul Lukas on the new promo duds:

First, they look like cheap replicas, not authentic game jerseys that would at least keep the project at 99.9% insulting. Notice how three of the five teams are those rare NBA squads that don’t put the city name on their road jerseys. Yes, they’re popular teams, but it helps subliminally signal that the Nets aren’t, what’s the word?, um…right, douchebags for ripping “New Jersey” off their road uniforms.

Even Clay Bennett thinks the relationship between the Nets’ owners and the team’s ostensible fan base is screwed up. Christ. I can’t believe I used to go out with these dudes.

Thanks to Stephen Del Percio for the Fans for Fair Play link.