The Full Chicago Sporting Event Experience

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He has a ways to go. But look at all that hair. Beat that Joakim…

We here at MojoFiction celebrated our 40th birthday on Friday night by crying ourselves to sleep because we are now old. But we also celebrated by taking in a Chicago Bulls basketball game on Saturday night. Instead of attending the game with our good friend Mr. Jack N. Coke (along with some regular friends, probably), we took our nine-year old son. Recently, he finished his youth basketball season, which he really liked, and we thought we’d remind him of what he was missing by letting him watch other people play basketball. We also let him know that many of those people make millions of dollars to play while we actually had to pay to let him play in his youth league.

It was his first NBA game and he was excited like you couldn’t believe. Originally, we were going to go downtown to watch the city turn the river green — well, greener than it already is — but they moved the time up from 10am to 9:30am. Now that we’re 40 we don’t get up before 9am (we just made that rule up, and we like it).

Since we were taking our son out to his first game, we wanted to give him the full experience. Instead of taking the train in, we drove down i94 and let him experience the thrill of the miles-long traffic jam that is the interstate 90-94 merger. That actually ended up moving pretty quickly, so we were disappointed. But then we exited at Adams and drove west, where we thought we’d make up for the interstate by running into all the cars arriving early for parking. Of course, we drove straight through to the parking lot without any hassle and even got a space right by the entrance to the lot, meaning we’d get out pretty quickly once the game was over. So far, the full Chicago Bulls experience wasn’t really working.

Enter: The Billy Goat.

Stopping at the Billy Goat is a rite of passage for anyone going to the United Center for any reason. After all, if you’re going to attend a sporting event that serves mainly greasy burgers and fries, what better place to stop at first than a legendary restaurant that serves mainly greasy burgers and fries (no Pepsi. Coke)?

We left the parking lot and headed towards the Billy Goat, in the opposite direction of the United Center. The cold wind scratched at our faces and our son asked repeatedly why we were walking away from the arena. We answered, “The full experience!”

We arrived at the front door to the Billy Goat, pulled it open, and stared at a full house. That place was packed all the way up the door. There was a group of about 30 teenagers all dressed in the same outfits and waiting in line that must have arrived just before us. So: arrive in the city, pay a ridiculous amount of money for parking, walk into the cold wind for blocks and blocks in the opposite direction of your ultimate destination just to get to a low-rent restaurant only to end up rejected by the crowd so large that you can’t even get in the front door? Now that’s the Chicago experience.

We left and walked to the United Center where we ate hot dogs (probably, they were kind of greyish, so who knows).

Finally, the game started, the Bulls vs. the Sacramento Kings. Our seats were up in the 300 level, but good nonetheless. Our son was mesmerized by the event, from the giant scoreboard above the court, to the pre-game theatrics, to the spectacular play of Joakim Noah. We, of course, used the moment to impart our expert knowledge of professional basketball to our son. Also of course, our son is apparently at the age where he’s no longer sure that Dad is an expert at anything. We assured him we were and then we used our outstanding parental abilities to tell him not to argue with us.

As the game entered the 4th quarter, the score was close.  We were literally on the edge of our seats (so we basically paid for the whole seat for nothing).  The Bulls took a full time-out to strategize about the best way to stop missing shots.  While we waited, we suddenly noticed small parachutes dropping from the rafters and on to the crowd.  The Bulls marketing dept. likes to tie t-shirts to parachutes and drop them on the crowd.  But none floated our way.  Just when we thought we’d miss out, a parachute took an unexpected turn right towards our seats.  We went all deer-in-headlights and watched it as it floated right to the couple next to us.  The girl reach up and snagged it.

We turned to our son and said, “What happened?  It was coming right to you!” (completely ignoring our own immobility).

“I don’t know,” he said.  But he did know.  He admitted he was afraid that if he jumped up for it he might go tumbling down the stairs and over the rail into the lower seating. (We’re serious here. He said that. He really did.)

You can guess what happened next.  Earlier in the game, the girl had asked our son if it was his first basketball game.  He replied that it was.  Now, the same girl handed him the parachute shirt and said she’d like him to have it, since it was his first game.  Our son graciously accepted and thanked her profusely, which we were very proud of.

So: drive into the city to spend the evening eating hot dogs with your son and letting him experience his first live Bulls game and having a stranger hand him a parachute prize that will most likely not come her way again, only to leave the arena with a home team win and memories of a great time?

Full Chicago Sporting Event Experience.

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