The Islanders begin their first regular season in Barclays Center tonight and I don't think I'm being paranoid when I say that absolutely everything they do or don't do in connection to their new arena will be meticulously scrutinized under the most intense of 21st century social media microscopes.
They won't sell enough tickets and the seats won't be good enough and the transportation will be terrible and the sounds and colors will be all wrong and there won't be food and the team (probably) won't win enough games and the whole thing will be an unmitigated disaster.
Here's the thing: everything except the winning is irrelevant.
Let's remember how we all ended up here:
By the time the Islanders were a dynasty, Nassau Coliseum was already outdated. The county needed to hastily add seats to accommodate an endless supply of loyal fans. When the dynasty was dead and the franchise was buried under ten tons of ash, the same building couldn't give seats away. The county let the Coliseum rot as the team inside rotted, too.
The guy who owned the team didn't want it anymore but he didn't want to give it away, either. So he waited and waited and collected his television money. Then he sold the team to a con artist. Then he got it back and sold it to three real estate shysters who threatened to move the team if the county didn't gift them a new arena. The county laughed in their faces.
So the three shysters sold the team to a guy who was willing to work with the town and the county to build a new arena, and pay for it. But the town supervisor said no.
Meanwhile, a brand new arena was just getting finished two counties over. It wasn't built with hockey in mind and it wasn't in the team's traditional backyard but it could work as a new permanent venue.
The team tried one last Hail Mary pass: a vote of the people, to see if they would carry the burden of paying for a new arena close to home. And the people said no.
And the Islanders said, "Hello Brooklyn."
The team was never given a chance to reset things the way they wanted to. They were blocked at every turn from having their own state-of-the-art arena that generates revenue like everyone else has. So they found the next best thing: someone else's state-of-the-art arena that will pay them for playing there.
We'll never know just how close the team came to moving to another city. Perhaps the NHL would never have let an established franchise leave an area as large and as populated as Nassau County. Even if the Islanders were in no real danger of moving, it wouldn't erase the pain and frustration and humiliation of all of those lost years we experienced as fans. When every other team was playing for the Stanley Cup, our team (literally) couldn't even pay the rent.
The Islanders are a good team now. They have as good a shot as anyone to win a championship soon. That's all that matters.
That seat you might have at Barclays Center this season may not be perfect. You might see 95 percent of the ice and pay twice as much for the privilege of sitting there.
But that's still your team out there. It's playing a manageable distance away. And it's wealthier and better stocked with talent than it has been in 35 years.
So remember that when your Twitter timeline or Facebook feed is filled with pictures of obstructed seats or the visiting media are taking their shots or your friends and neighbors are swearing up and down to never set foot in that corporate shithole for as long as they live.
As far as Plan B's go, the Islanders made out alright.