Have Game? Will Travel!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Snowy Night in Chicago: Stars at Blackhawks

It was a snowy night to attend the Chicago Blackhawks game. But I managed to make the drive from my home to the United Center in less than 30 minutes. Rather than park for free on the street as I have many times this season, I used one of the parking passes I bought last year from Red Top Parking. I parked in their lot rather than brave the snow on the city streets.

Obtaining Tickets
I parked just before 7:30 pm. I expected to see more ticket scalpers walking towards the United Center box office than I did – but it had snowed all day. The scalpers who were there, either looking for tickets or did not have a single. Meaning I bought a standing room only ticket for $25 from the ticket office – even though seats were available. I bought SRO because my cousin, “Blackhawks Jim,” was at the game and I was hoping to sit with them in the first level.

Standing Room Only
Since I arrived just before the game started, I immediately went to the upper deck and found a seat for the first period. “Blackhawks Jim” texted me that there was a seat in front of them so I met up with him during the first intermission. The seat was free so I sat in section 120 row 10 for the 2nd and 3rd periods.

The Game
Tonight was Tony Esposito Heritage Night. I actually attended the last Tony Esposito Night on March 19, 2008 when the Blackhawks started celebrating the hero’s of their past.

This was the fourth shootout game I have attended this season. Kris Versteeg scored in the 5th round to win the shootout 1-0 and give the Blackhawks the win 4-3. Patrick Kane scored two goals in the first period as the Stars and Blackhawks traded goals throughout the game.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Super Bowl Sunday Basketball: Indiana at Northwestern

Today I attended a sporting event on Super Bowl Sunday (that was not the Super Bowl). Northwestern scheduled their Sunday afternoon game for 1:30 pm CT, which was perfect timing in order to attend the game and still get back to wherever fans were planning to watch the Super Bowl.

The Game
Northwestern got out to an initial 13-2 lead and their lead never dipped below nine points as the Wildcats defeated Indiana convincingly 78-61. This was Northwestern’s first three-game winning streak versus Indiana since the 1930s – there are a lot of firsts for Northwestern this season.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Day on Campus: Michigan at Northwestern

The main reason I bought Northwestern men’s basketball season tickets this year is that the Ultimate Sports Wife is a Ph.D. student at Northwestern University. We met in undergrad at Northwestern so I do have “another” reason to attend. However, with Nicole spending much of her time on campus, I realized that buying season tickets 1) gives her an incentive to go to campus to work, 2) allows me to attend the basketball games and 3) allows us to spend more time together since we are both on campus - #1 and #3 giving me good husband points.

Today was one of those days. Nicole needed to drive to campus by 2 pm for “office hours” – where she instructs her students how to perform better in class. Since Northwestern was playing at 6 pm versus Michigan, I decided to ride to campus with her and spend a few hours in the sociology department surfing the internet and working.

As usual I parked in the neighborhood near Welsh-Ryan Arena since you can park for free on the street.

The Game
The game was close through the first half, but Northwestern started to pull away with 10 minutes left in the game. That’s when Drew Crawford stepped up his game and scored all 11 of his second half points (he had 17 points total) to defeat Michigan 67-52. The win gave Northwestern their first sweep of Michigan since 1967.

During the game I ran into my fraternity pledge father and deadspin.com columnist, Benoit Denizet-Lewis. He’s writing about Northwestern’s quest for its first NCAA Tournament bid. At this point in the season, Northwestern has played their most difficult games in Big Ten play. Northwestern must now defeat the teams they are “supposed” to in order to be eligible for the bid.

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Road Trip and Free Ticket: Northwestern at Michigan St.

For the fourth consecutive weekend, I went on a road trip from Chicago. Three weeks ago I drove to Ann Arbor and the last two weekends I spent time in Indianapolis. Yesterday, I drove to East Lansing, MI for the Northwestern at Michigan St. men’s basketball game. As was the case when I drove to Ann Arbor, I wanted to see Northwestern play at Michigan St. I had not seen a game at the Breslin Center. After last night, I have attended a game at nine Big Ten men’s basketball venues.

Obtaining Tickets
I arrived in East Lansing around 6:30 pm – just in time for the 7 pm tip off. I parked by Spartan Stadium for $10 and walked towards the Breslin Center ticket office. The line to buy tickets was about 30 people deep, so I asked at the Will Call window what was the cheapest ticket for the game - $13. I now knew my price to beat.

However, I failed to negotiate well at first. On my way to East Lansing, I checked craigslist.org. Most of the ads were looking for tickets and the ones that were selling tickets were asking $60 or higher per ticket. Since I failed to research the event before driving over, I was nervous when I approached my first scalper. For some reason my first offer was $20 (low compared to craiglist.org, but I should have offered $10). Instead the scalper responded with $30 and I rejected the offer. I immediately walked away realizing my mistake and he followed me – probably to accept my $20. But, immediately I found a guy who was holding up a ticket. I asked him how much he wanted and he said nothing…it’s free. He handed me the ticket and I told him he made my day.

The Game
Michigan St. could not put Northwestern away during the first half as they only had a two-point lead heading into halftime. But they started the second half with a bang – going on an 18-4 run with the highlight of the run (and the game) being Chris Allen’s spectacular dunk.

Northwestern’s John Shurna scored a career-high 31 points for Northwestern but that was not enough as Michigan St. won 79-70. With the win, Michigan St. is now 9-0 in Big Ten play for the first time ever and Tom Izzo passed Bobby Knight for best winning percentage for Big Ten coaches who have coached at least 10 years in the Big Ten.

The Drive Home
As soon as the game ended, I drove back to Chicago. For a two hour college basketball game, I left Chicago at 1:30 pm and arrived back home at 11:30 pm.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, January 25, 2010

AFC Championship: Jets at Colts

It turns out the Indianapolis Colts were staying in our hotel on Saturday night – so much for the poor reviews on tripadvisor.com. Since the AFC Championship Game did not start until 3 pm we had plenty of time to sleep in and then go to brunch. I had picked out Patachou on the Park for brunch. My first pick, City Café, is closed for some reason on Sundays – even this Sunday with a major football game taking place.

Obtaining Tickets
On Saturday morning, I emailed a guy on craigslist.org about his ticket in the upper deck he was offering for $145. I asked for face value and he responded stating that if I did not want to pay $145, the lowest he would accept was $125. I was willing to pay his price but he never emailed me back. Thus, he set my “high price” to pay for the event.

Nicole and I took the hotel shuttle to downtown and it dropped us off within a couple of blocks of Lucas Oil Stadium’s ticket office. Since tickets were available at the box office for the last two Colts game I attended this season (the Patriots at Colts and last Saturday night), I wanted to check the box office to see if tickets were available. I walked to the box office as Nicole walked to the restaurant.

As I waited in line, I noticed a large group (about 10 people) collect their tickets. There were no tickets available when I asked if any singles were available. I immediately asked the group if they had an extra and they acted as though they had one. After about one minute (which feels much longer), they said they did. My first thought was that they were affiliated with the team and would give me a ticket for free. No luck on that. But they were affiliated with the team but had not received a free ticket. Instead, I paid face value ($125) for a ticket on the lower level. Not bad considering this was the AFC Championship game and it would take some work to find a ticket for face value anywhere else.

Pre Game Dining and Shopping
After buying my ticket I could now relax and enjoy a nice brunch with Nicole. Patachou on the Park was a great brunch place. Not only did it serve good food, but it was only a few blocks from Lucas Oil Stadium and the shopping areas in downtown.

After brunch, Nicole and I went sopping at Nordstrom. Since Lucas Oil Stadium is located right downtown you can spend as much time as necessary shopping to make the trip “equal” if necessary.

Tickets Part 2
After spending an hour at Nordstrom I walked to the stadium for the game. As I approached the main scalping corner on W. McCarty St. and S. Capitol Ave. there were quite a few people selling tickets and even more asking for tickets – meaning tickets would probably stay higher than face value. One fan sold his pair ($90 face value per ticket) to a scalper for $150 each. Another guy was asking for $200 for his $110 (face value) ticket. Other scalpers were also asking for much more than face.

The Game
This was the second time I have attend an NFL Championship Game. The first time was three years ago when the Chicago Bears hosted the New Orleans Saints.

The game started out poorly for the Jets as referee Tony Corrente called the Jets the Giants during the coin toss.

However, this did not effect the Jets as they started the game with a bang taking a 17-6 lead with only 2:11 left in the second quarter. At first I thought Rex Ryan may be correct in his prediction that the Jets would win the Super Bowl, but then Peyton Manning took over. After the Jets took their 11-point lead, Manning took less than one minute to score a touchdown at 1:13 left in the first half. This was just the beginning as he also drove for two touchdowns in the second half to score 24 unanswered points and lead the Colts to a 30-17 victory. Peyton Manning broke the NFL postseason record by passing for 300 yards in his seventh postseason game – he was tied with Joe Montana and Kurt Warner.

After the two minute warning in the second half, the ushers finally started checking tickets to enter the section I was sitting in – they did not want fans to attempt to get close to the field during the celebration.

Post Game Dining
After the game, I walked back to the hotel in pouring rain to meet Nicole. The one cab I found would not drive me to such a close destination and the hotel shuttle was not at its stop when I walked by.

After resting for a couple of hours, we took the hotel shuttle back downtown and ate at Harry & Izzy’s which is right next door to St. Elmo Steak House (Peyton Manning is a part owner of the partner restaurants).

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Ticket to Philadelphia 76ers at Indiana Pacers

Nicole and I left Chicago at noon and arrived at our hotel by 4:30 pm (with some stops along the way). The hotel (which I was concerned about based on reviews online) was great! It was a 4-star hotel – the lobby and rooms were luxurious, but not “that” luxurious. With Nicole happy with the hotel, I was relieved and ready to attend the Indiana Pacers game for the third time this season. Since Nicole wanted to rest when she got to the hotel the Pacers game worked into our schedule. I left the hotel after 6 pm for the 7 pm tip off and Nicole planned to meet me after the game ended around 9:15 pm.

Obtaining Tickets
I walked towards the box office as usual. However, last week I realized most of the possible free tickets are within the main entrance of Conseco Fieldhouse (on Pennsylvania St.) – before you reach the box office but after you enter the doors to the arena. This time I asked a couple of groups if they had an extra ticket – they did not. Then I asked a few high school kids if they did. They guy with the tickets hesitated but his buddy said “who cares” and they handed me one ticket. It was only a $10 ticket but, remember, at most games you can sit wherever you want in the arena. I later learned it was Haiti night and the Pacers would donate a portion of each $10 ticket purchased – Oops!

The Game
The 76ers defeated the Pacers convincingly 107-97. Allen Iverson scored 17 points and had 5 rebounds and 3 assists. Towards the end of the third quarter I realized the game lasted longer than last week’s game and was thankful last week’s game was quicker. Last week I left the Pacers game with 2:24 remaining in order to make the Colts Divisional Playoff game on time. Here is how the timing worked to make tonight different:

8:55 pm: 4th quarter started.
9:00 pm: 8:42 left in the 4th quarter.
9:05 pm: 6:39 left in the 4th quarter.
9:10 pm: 4:37 left in the 4th quarter. Last week I would have left at this time. Elton Brand was shooting free throws with the 76ers up 100-85 and I would only have five minutes to make it to Lucas Oil Stadium – the same time I left last week.
9:15 pm: 2:45 left in the 4th quarter.
9:20 pm: 1:41 left in the 4th quarter.
9:23 pm: Game Over.

Post Game Dining
For whatever reason, Nicole was late. So even though I was waiting for her by 9:30 pm, she was still at the hotel. I walked to the place I was supposed to meet her and realized that Ambrossia Centro (an Italian restaurant) was near out meeting spot. I checked out a couple of restaurants but the Ambrossia was perfect for us for a couple of reasons: 1) It was near where we were meeting, 2) It was Italian, and 3) they would seat us after 10 pm which was the time it appeared Nicole would arrive.

Before Nicole arrived, I went to the Wild Beaver Saloon – across the street from Ambrossia Centro. Wild Beaver Saloon had a good atmosphere and good drink specials for a Saturday night.

When Nicole showed up I crossed the street. Ambrossia Centro was a great place for dinner. First, the food was great. Second, it was a rare restaurant in downtown Indianapolis that was not a national chain. We were pleased with our choice for dinner.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, January 22, 2010

Weekend Trip to Indianapolis

Last week (before the Colts playoff game versus the Ravens) the Ultimate Sports Wife mentioned she did not have to teach ice skating for a full day the following Saturday morning (tomorrow) and asked if we should go anywhere for the weekend. I was already planning to drive to Indianapolis for the AFC Championship Game if the Colts defeated the Baltimore so I mentioned to Nicole we should go to Indianapolis if the Colts won their game (and somewhere else if they did not).

Booking the Hotel
When I got back from Indianapolis last Saturday night, the Colts had won and Nicole thought a weekend in Indianapolis would be fun, so we booked a hotel that night – the night before their opponent was known as the Jets defeated the Chargers on Sunday.

For the first time, I used Hotwire.com since my usual hotel sites (Marriott.com and Hilton.com) were more expensive than I liked. Hotwire offered a 4-star “Downtown Indianapolis Hotel” for $79 per night – much less than the $220 for the Marriott Downtown and $130 for the Courtyard at the Capitol. Hotwire wrote that their 4-star hotels included the “InterContinental, Hyatt, Omni, and other prestigious hotel brands.” Those brand names made Nicole comfortable so I booked the hotel on Hotwire. However, the University Place Hotel & Conference Center Indianapolis was the hotel that we actually booked.

My thought – What hotel is that? Unbelievable. Let me go check tripadvisor.com now. TripAdvisor had mixed reviews – some people thought the hotel was great, others wrote that it was a priceline.com trap since the hotel was over a mile from downtown on the campus of IUPUI. I was not sure what to think – but with no refunds I did not have many other options at that point.

Labels: , , ,