A relative of mine was going to spend a week in Chicago in early February. He was visiting from Austria and was interested in attending a Bulls' game at the United Center. Knowing the dates of his visit, I secured three tickets weeks before the event -- one for him and the other for his brother. That would be their maiden voyage to the stadium that Michael Jordan helped build.
A few days before the game, I learned of a winter storm warning for Chicagoland for Thursday and Friday. The forecast was accurate when they had estimated 12 inches of snow during a 24-hour period.
Plan B. I would no longer drive 40 miles from the 'burbs but would rely on our commuter rail Metra for assistance. On several snowy occasions during past winters, the Kennedy was a parking lot, sometimes traveling about 1 mile per 6 minutes. This night, I would not test my fate.
The ticket for Friday's game displayed a start time of 7 pm on the monochrome tickets printed at home. As I gazed out the train window onto the snowy and cold landscape, I decided to preview the game. As I did, several online outlets had the game scheduled for 8:30 pm (but didn't officially start until 8:41 pm). Apparently, it was an ESPN game so they pushed back the start time. My first thought was this was EST, which meant the game would start at 7:30 pm. No such luck!
My original plan was to take the 4:37 pm train to Union Station and then take a bus to the United Center. I'd rendezvous with my relatives as they made their way down from the north side. With a game at 7 pm and doors opened at 5:30 pm, we'd have about 90 minutes to wander around, take some pics and watch those phenomenal athletes show off some of their skill warming up.
I was able to jump on the express train at 4:10 pm instead of the 4:37 pm. I'd have little more time to get over to the UC. The bad news, now realizing the game time was pushed back 90 minutes, my challenge was to determine how to kill extra time without being cold. At that point, I dreamed of much warmer weather when it comes to killing time in the Loop.
Having the delayed start also impacted my return train trip. If I had known the game was going to start at 8:30 pm, I may have drove, having more time to get there and giving me more flexibility. Unfortunately, only two trains after 10 pm: the 10:35 pm and a 12:25 am back to my home (Libertyville). I wanted to see the entire game but didn't want to board the train 25 minutes past midnight so my play was the 10:35 pm train.
On the return trip, I saw several Bulls' fans taking the 10:35 pm train back to the burbs. A few were miffed at how TV, in this case, ESPN runs the roost. Fortunately, it was a competitive game. Unfortunately, I had to leave with 6 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter.
It was a perfect storm in several ways. One, first Bulls' tickets that I have secured in over 6 years and then postponing the event by 90 minutes. In addition, a snowstorm of the like we experience every 3 - 4 years on the night of the event. What are the chances?
It wasn’t just the snow; the downtown Chicago air had a old man winter bite to it. In addition, for anyone living in Chicago in February, roll the dice to determine if the main streets may be plowed; you know most secondary streets will not be plowed, that may take days for that to be addressed. Walking to various bus stops, only a third of all sidewalks had those 12 inches of the white stuff removed. To address many crosswalks in the Loop, you had either to wear waterproof boots or have NBA leaping ability.
The irony is I spent 8 hours of travel time to watch 30 minutes of professional basketball. That may not be how ESPN looks at it but that’s my interpretation.
After getting home at midnight and dusting the snow off my boots and pants, I realized things really did work out well. My relatives were able to stay for the entire game and saw the Bulls come back from a 15-point deficit to win the game in the closing seconds. They didn't seem to mind the many stoppages of play as they typically had entertainers during timeouts. Lasting memories -- watching the Bulls and Timberwolves compete and marveled at the grandness and beauty of the United Center. My intent was to show two of my Austrian relatives a good time at an NBA game -- and I succeeded regardless of my individual challenges.