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Once Upon A Time….

February 10, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who loved the Chicago Bulls.  She watched basketball with her father when Jordan did his famous under-the-basket-switch-shooting-hands-and-throwing-it-into-the-basket-while-falling-out-of-bounds shot against the Lakers in the 1991 Finals.  She predicted Michael Jordan would return after he announced that he had lost the desire to play basketball on October 6,1993, just four days before her birthday. She screamed at the tv when John Starks fouled Scottie Pippen <repeatedly>.  And she died a little on the inside when she finally saw Michael Jordan play live, only to see him score 6 points in a Wizards uniform.  This little girl, at the not-so-girlish age of 30 years and 100 days, finally saw her first live Bulls game in Chicago when she and her beloved sister went to see the Bulls play the Charlotte Bobcats on January 18, 2011.


Dear Gentle Readers:

Welcome!  As you might imagine, this blog has been a long time coming. It’s a work in progress while Joyce and I figure out what we’re doing but we hope to convey some of the joy and emotion that we experience as basketball fans and more importantly, as Bulls fans.

Back to the story – yes, it’s true.  I finally went to my first Bulls game in Chicago.  Why did it take so long?  Three reasons:

1. I had a father who didn’t see the point in going to games live when you get a better view on a tv at home;

2. I didn’t get my drivers license until a week before I graduated from high school;

3. I didn’t have a lot of money in high school and Bulls tickets were not cheap (plus this was when the Internet was still in its e-commerce infancy….if I wanted good playoff tickets, I would’ve still had to go and camp out next to the United Center overnight.)

Bottom line, I’m thankful and only a little bitter that I got to see Jordan before he retired (except for the fact that the game following his 6-pt performance was a 40-pt performance…..womp).  Today, my sister joins me in Bulls fandom and last month, we celebrated her birthday by going to the United Center and decided that this first post would be dedicated to observations of the experience.

So here goes…

We bought the tickets off of stubhub and hustled from the stubhub pick-up center to the stadium.  As we walked into the building, the number of people there pre-tipoff is striking.  The Bulls lead the league in attendance and once you get into your seats, you realize that introductions haven’t started and think, damn, the place is pretty darn full for a game against the lowly Bobkittens.

We settled into our seats, enjoying the pre-game atmosphere and the fact that we were able to get really good seats in the lower level for a decent price.  The announcer announced the visitors’ starting line-up and then….the stadium went black.

A single spotlight on the center of the court.  A single furry mascot.  And the indelible strains of the opening music……

“And NOW….the starting lineup of your CHICAGO BULLS”

Nothing but chills.

As a kid, I would listen to Ray Clay during every game.  He’s not there anymore but to able to sit underneath those championship banners and listen to a pretty good facsimile, is still enough to make me shiver.

The players come out one by one and of course, D.Rose is saved for last.  Nevermind that his season at Memphis doesn’t exist anyway (oops) and that the announcer always announces undergraduate institutions for all the other players (even MJ), Derrick Rose has always been and always will be from Chicago.  The animation, the music, the lights…the Bulls truly have one of the best opening introductions in the league.

The game soon gets underway and it’s a bit of a sluggish game and oddly enough, Tom Thibodeau is yelling but it doesn’t seem as constant or as loud as it is when you’re watching the game on TV.  It’s the Bobkittens, so there isn’t a marquee matchup to follow and the Bulls clearly look tired after playing their fourth game in five nights.

Benny *is* pretty handsome, no? Photo Credit: Joyce

Throughout the game and during timeouts, there’s always action happening elsewhere off the court.  Benny the Bull is wandering around, generally  wreaking havoc in the stands.  He’s hilarious to watch because he seems to convey such a personality – whether it’s flirting with the Luvabulls, inviting kids to sit down with him on the sidelines, or throwing popcorn around, he feels like a real mascot.  As a partial season ticketholder for the Wiz, I cannot say the same for the Wizards’ mascot. Elsewhere in the stadium, the Bulls are also good about doing giveaways and contests in the upper levels.  As someone who regularly sits in the 400-level seats, it can be annoying to watch as all the food/tshirt/merchandise giveaways go to folks sitting in the 100-level seats, even if it makes sense from a business standpoint.  All in all, I can see why attendance stayed high, even through the Dark (post-Jordan) Ages – the fan experience is a fun one.  I’ve been to my fair share of games, especially in DC now, and Ted Leonsis has his work cut out for him in DC.

The Bulls are down at the half and one has to wonder if the Bobkittens are going to be this year’s version of the Nets for the Bulls (i.e. the way-below-0.500 team that manages to have the Bulls’ number).

The halftime show begins.  Over a 100 youth from the Joffrey Ballet’s youth program come out to give a performance and it’s breathtaking.  It’s a welcome alternative to the scantily clad cheerleaders and there’s also something beautiful about watching youth from all different backgrounds demonstrate all that is great about Chicago: the culture, the diversity, the vibrancy.  Sometimes, I really miss Chicago.

The players come back out onto the court and we’re in the second half.  I wish I could say that the basketball was better for my first time at the United Center but quite honestly, it was a sloppy game.  My sister and I are screaming, as we like to do, and as usual, the people around us find this amusing.  My sister tells me that 100-level seats are typically pretty quiet and tonight is no different.  The woman sitting behind us thinks that we’re hilarious and truth be told, two short Asian girls yelling about how players need to box out better is probably a somewhat unusual sight.

The Bulls pull ahead by the start of the fourth quarter but it’s a tight game and with Boozer and Joakim out, the rotation gets even shorter. Taj “hard hat lunch pail” Gibson looks tired and given that he ended up playing 47 minutes, it’s to be expected.   It came down to a one possession game and on most nights, Derrick Rose can will the Bulls to a win but alas, tonight it ’twas not meant to be.  The final shot is off the mark and the Bulls lose, 83-82.

The Yin Seeesters were not pleased with this game. Photo Credit: Joyce

At this point, my sister is upset because, well, it’s the Bobkittens (“what kind of a birthday gift is that?!”, she rightfully asks).  I’m mildly irritated that we  lost to them the previous week in Charlotte and the fact that they and Boston are the only teams to which the Bulls have lost twice.  Ugh.  However, it’s January and these games sometimes just don’t work out the way that fans want them to.  I’ve learned to ration my disappointment because otherwise, it’s too stressful.  I nearly tore all my hair out during the 2009 Bulls-Celtics series and as many of you know, I have a lot of hair.

My sister and I depart and we walk out past the Jordan statue.  There are too many people taking pictures in front of the statue for us to linger too long to  take pictures of our own but it’s nice to know that it actually exists and that it looks just like it does on tv.

With that, I’ve popped the United Center cherry and we’re on our way home.  Thanks to my sister for convincing me that it was worth it to pay money to see the Bobkittens.  It was worth every penny.

Air Jordan. Photo Credit: Joyce


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