Nobody stands outside United Center to buy tickets on the street. Well, there is one guy: Me.
I treat UC like it’s Wrigley Field in August. I’ll roll up before game time to hang in the freezing temps, avoiding professional ticket hustlers while seeking the rare fan looking to get rid of an extra. My trick is to go to the south side of the arena, right next to the best parking lot. Rich guys have given me a 100 level ticket for $20 or if I buy ’em a beer once inside. Honest, it’s happened to me a handful of times.
I’ve sold, too. Loser that I was at the time – I couldn’t find a last-minute date to the Watch the Throne Kanye/Jay-Z show. So, I went up to United Center and sold ’em at the door. Although I still regret not attending that concert, I got a decent price.
On Bulls Twitter, I won tickets for asking a question they chose to read on the pregame show. (I won that 2 years in a row -2013-2014 I think. Once a year eligibility. You’d get a pair of 300 level tickets and $50 in Chili’s gift certificates. I still have all $100 in Chili’s money. No expiration date, so I’m lying in wait.) I had to sell one of those pairs because of a work conflict.
Nowadays, I search for sellers with one eye and keep the other on my Stubhub app. When the Bulls are struggling, costs plummet as tipoff nears. Tonight it was holding steady at $12-$15, but suddenly a crop of tickets dropped to $6.75 apiece at approximately 6:38pm. I began the purchasing process, but I’d just hopped off the 50 Damen bus and was still walking up Madison.
I lingered on the possibility of a beer-for-courtside dream seat. Nah, I thought, I can’t always pull a rabbit out of a hat like that. Take the deal. Unfortunately, this wasn’t part of a Howie Mandel-hosted 2000s game show, and the offer didn’t wait for me to make a dramatic decision. Prices leapt back up to $15. I walked around to the Adams side. No dice on street tickets. I saw my buddy Rudy as he entered Gate 7. He wondered why I was standing out in the cold. I gave him a shorthand explanation of my strategy & he may very well think I’m insane.
“Okay…” Rudy said. “Shoot me a text if you get in and we’ll have a beer.”
“Winnable game!” I shouted as the door closed behind him.
It got down to about 6:55pm and I figured it was Stubhub time. $11.40 is a tremendous price for a Bulls game, so I hit Purchase. Then, my iPhone 6-plus took a giant dump and shut down completely. It’s been a little screwy lately, urging me toward an expensive upgrade. I swore at it and everything, but nothing helped. It finally gave me the “plug me in” red alert when I tried restarting it. Which was bullshit, because I was at 42% just minutes earlier. I considered going to the box office, but they stick with the face value and I didn’t want to jump from $11 to $50. Again, I avoided the professional ticket street salesmen, because I always negotiate poorly with them. It’s their job to rip me off best they can. And, often, they get me good. I decided to walk to Billy Goat – grab a burger and a beer – and watch the first half. I’d sold my Chili’s tickets to a security guy there once. I figured there might be some cheap tickets floating around. Maybe I could get a $10 ticket for the second half.
I got my doublecheez and fries(they do have fries at the one on Madison) and took my food up to the bar. I ordered a Bud Light. Then I noticed they had the Blackhawks on 3 TVs and…inexplicably…the Lakers/Cavs LeBron return game on the other 3. I immediately put in a request to change the LeBron game TVs to the Bulls. The barback talked to the main lady behind the bar and she begrudgingly found the remote. But she started seeking permission from the people next to me to turn off the Hawks game. That’s when I discovered someone was watching the LeBron game. I jokingly asked “Who the hell cares about the Cavs?” I did it loudly, to start some pleasant barroom banter with whomever it was. She pointed out the 3 dudes halfway down the bar. And they didn’t even respond to my opening statement or engage at all. Who goes to the Billy Goat to watch a Lakers/Cavs game?
The folks next to me weren’t watching hockey and were packing up to leave anyhow. So I succeeded in getting the Bulls game on. I finished my burger, which I topped with diced onions, 2 pickles and plenty of mustard and ketchup. I ordered another Bud Light, once I tracked down the bartender. (Billy Goat isn’t a tradition because of its lightning-quick service.)
Two kids left their parents’ table and bellied up at the bar next to me, commenting on the Bulls as they did…boys probably 8 years old. I hardly paid them any attention until the security guy came up and said, in a friendly way, “Your kids can’t sit at the bar.” I said “They’re not my kids. I only let ’em sit there because they were Bulls fans.” He laughed and apologized and shooed the kids away.
Billy Goat was dead by this point and I ditched any further thoughts of a 2nd half ticket. I paid my $8 tab(plus $2 tip) with a credit card and walked out. As I returned my wallet to my pocket I noticed I dropped a washing machine-weathered ticket stub wrapped around a hotel key. I must not have worn these jeans since the Badgers/Hawkeyes game in Iowa City. I picked up my Iowa souvenirs and left. As I trudged down Madison looking for a cab, I tossed the hotel keycard in a street garbage can. A rat the size of a Pillsbury tube leapt out the top into a bush the instant the key hit the trash. Scared the crap outta me.
Happy Thanksgiving to one and all.