Neil Best first worked at Newsday in 1982, then returned in 1985. His SportsWatch column debuted on Sept.
"It'll be great," Marv Albert said, looking forward to calling the Nets' preseason game against the Celtics on TNT, the first nationally televised sports event from the arena. "It has a lot of meaning to me."
But as it has been for many Brooklyn natives of a certain age, every milestone in the Barclays opening has been special.
Albert, 71, grew up in Brighton Beach and Manhattan Beach and attended Lincoln High School. Not only is he old enough to remember the last major pro team to play in the borough -- he is old enough to have worked for it.
As a teenaged errand boy in the Dodgers' ticket office at 215 Montague St., Albert said he was entitled to two tickets to every game at Ebbets Field. He often took advantage by sitting in a section to the right of announcers Vin Scully and Al Helfer and calling play-by-play himself into a tape recorder.
Albert said his most "amazing" task was delivering piles of tickets to Jersey City, where the Dodgers played select games at Roosevelt Stadium in 1956 and '57, mostly as a negotiating tactic in the fight for a new stadium.
"They would send me with a package, but not in a car," he said. "I'd go on the Hudson tubes with thousands of dollars in tickets and bring them to the office that night."
The thrill, he said, was returning to Brooklyn after those games on the team bus, getting to meet players from stars such as Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese to lesser lights such as outfielder Gino Cimoli.
"I got to know a lot of these guys later when I broke in [to announcing]," he said, "but I was a kid then."
Now big-time sports are back in the borough, and Albert will be there for the really big event Nov. 1, near the site of that Dodgers stadium that never was built. It figures to jumpstart a greatly intensified rivalry with the Nets' Manhattan neighbors.
"It'll be real, the Knicks-Nets thing, now; it never was before," he said. "I am sure the opening night is going to be spectacular, just the team taking the court in a Brooklyn uniform. I think they're going to be a huge success."
Ratner: 'Garden is Garden'
The Nets' move to Brooklyn figures to add spice to the basketball rivalry with the Knicks. But Hank Ratner, CEO of The Madison Square Garden Company, downplayed any rivalry between Barclays and the Garden for bookings.
"Look, Madison Square Garden is Madison Square Garden, a 133-year history, really the epitome of an experience for performers to come play here," he said. "There have been and are other buildings on the periphery of the market.
"Barclays is nothing new. There's been Newark. There's been Izod. There's been Nassau Coliseum. People come to the Garden. I think they have a market. We wish them well. But the Garden always is the Garden."
Ratner said with the Knicks, Rangers and Liberty all calling the building home, the Garden has scheduling limits. "Our biggest issue is there are only 365 days in a year," he said. "We don't have enough open dates to book acts . . . There's plenty of product for the marketplace."