Home alone and bored on a Saturday afternoon, I decided to get lunch by myself at my favorite hot dog place in Addison, Nana’s. A small hot dog place around noon can get pretty crowded, especially at Nana’s. But as I walked in I noticed it was pretty empty with the exception of a family six in the back and an old man-eating by myself. As sat I sat down with my food I was sitting one table over from the old man who was minding his own business. Besides the small TV going on behind me it was relatively quiet, so I pulled out my phone and proceeded to watch highlights of the Bulls last second victory over the Jazz. Little did I know my quiet lunch would turn in an interesting direction.
“You a Bulls fan son?” Asked the old man.
Startled by his question I looked up, nodded and smiled.
“Die hard” I replied.
The old man seemed to be in his early 70’s, wearing a hat and raincoat. What would ensue next would give me a new and different way to look at the Bulls and Sports in general. What triggered his question was he could hear the sound of Neil Funk and Stacy King going crazy when Belinelli hit the three for the lead and the win with five seconds to go.
“How old are you, son?
“16, 17 in May” I replied.
“So you never saw Michael Jordan or any of those teams play in person?”
I shook my head shamefully responding with I wish, but I was too young to remember any game that Jordan played in a Bulls uniform (I do remember when he was a Wizard, but really who counts that) I did although, see numerous Jordan highlights and games replayed on NBATV but never in person. I asked him if saw any of those teams play back in the late 80’s and through the 90’s. He grinned showing his yellow-tinted teeth.
“Just about every home game” he said with a little laugh.
My face instantly lit up and now I was completely invested into what this old man had to say. I would go on to ask him questions that I never got to ask someone who saw so many games of the Bulls during the 90’s dynasty. I asked him if he saw the move where Jordan switched the ball from his right to left hand against Magic and the Lakers, he responded with yes. He talked about how much fun it was to watch a game in Chicago Stadium, especially when the Bad Boy Pistons came to town. I found it funny when he said the rivalry between the fans was much more vicious than the rivalry on the court. I asked him about the 1995-1996 season where the Bulls went a NBA record 72-10.
“My son and I went to almost every home game that year. That was one of the greatest teams in sports history. Many people forget it too.”
He seemed to be enjoying this conversation as much as I was. Of all the questions I asked him, I asked what was his favorite game he ever saw Michael Jordan and the Bulls play, out of all the hundreds of games he probably saw. He grinned even more this time and laughed.
“The last game of the Seattle series. The Father’s day game.”
He saw the Isiah Thomas and the Pistons, Karl Malone and the Jazz, Magic running showtime, Larry Legend and so on. It stunned me, of all those battles he witnessed with his own eyes he went with the Fathers day game. Although of course it was Jordan and the Bulls 4th Championship and a special day because of his own Father’s death. He said it was most special to him because he saw it with his son and meant a lot to him. After he would ask me if I played baseball because I was wearing a Glenbard West baseball sweatshirt, nothing more about the Bulls. I watched him walk away with his cane in hand, he turned around and said,
“When that Rose kid comes back, I’d give them a chance.”
He nodded, smiled and just like that, was on his way. for the next five minutes I thought about the quick 5 or so minutes I was talking to the man. It made me realize that with all the technology we have today, being able to watch games and highlights on our phones and what not, that no matter how good technology becomes, it won’t be the same as seeing it game in person.
It also reassured me that even an old man, who has seen more than his share of Bulls games, still gives this team a chance to win a championship one day.
The Return is close.