Slam funk: Fans cope without the NBA

October 31, 2011|By Scott Bolohan | For RedEye

The NBA lockout has caused the cancellation of the first month of the regular season. It's also locking out Bulls fans from their favorite team.

Tuesday should have been the day the Bulls opened the season against the defending champion Dallas Mavericks. Instead, the only "action" of any relevance is taking place inside conference rooms.

"The lockout has sucked," said Andrew Hummer, 23, of Orland Park. "After such an exciting season for the Bulls, the lockout couldn't have come at a worse time. Especially for a team that is as young, talented and exciting to watch as they are. You hate to be teased after such an awesome year last year to nothing."

At the heart of the lockout is the owners' desire for a hard salary cap and a greater percentage of the revenue, of which the players currently receive 57 percent. The owners are looking for a more even split. The two sides recently turned to a federal mediator to resolve their issues, to no avail. As of Tuesday, no settlement had been reached.

And the lockout has left more than just the players scrambling for ways to find income.

On a typical Bulls game night Chris Delgado, a manager at Hawkeye's Bar and Grill in Little Italy, said the bar shuttles up to 40 people to the United Center for home games, with up to 70 people coming to the bar only because the Bulls are playing.

Now Hawkeye's will to have to find other ways to draw people, including promotions unrelated to sports.

"We are going to look more toward hockey," Delgado said. "We'll get the hockey [TV] package so people can see more teams and we'll do more with the Blackhawks. We do other things like trivia night on Tuesdays, so we might up that to a couple times a week to get more people in here."

While Delgado said he wasn't upset at the NBA players and owners personally, he said the people who will suffer most are people like him who work for businesses that depend on the Bulls playing.

"[The owners and players] are going to get their money either way," he said. "Us making our money depends on people coming to the neighborhood and getting people to come in, so with that being gone it's going to be tougher. It's a big loss financially."

Stephanie Gabriel, 22, of West Rogers Park, said she watches every Bulls game "religiously" and tweets along with the action. Gabriel is a blogger for BullsExtra.com and now has to write about a team not playing games.

"There isn't much to blog about; it all becomes redundant," she said. "I try to keep up with some players overseas, especially if it's a Bull, but the media is not as strong where I am able to find quick info about the game and stats."

Hummer said he watches nearly every Bulls game on TV and will look for ways to fill the void. He too probably will turn to hockey.

"Thankfully the Hawks season is upon us," he said. "They will be exciting to watch so I will probably get into the Hawks more than normal."

But for others, their love of basketball trumps other sports. Kelsey Zahn, 23, of Wheeling, said she probably wouldn't watch any other sport if the season were canceled, joking she'd take up knitting to pass the time. She said the effects of the lockout will be felt in many aspects of her life—even at work.

"The worst part about not having an NBA season is the possibility of not having Stacey King in my life," she said of the Bulls' color commentator for TV broadcasts. "His comments were always the best material for signs at games and for laughs at the office. What will we talk about at our 9:52 a.m. meetings at work?"

Lauren Campion, 26, of Lakeview, said the lack of an NBA season will have a dramatic effect on her life.

"Not having basketball is one of the worst things that could happen to me," she said. "My motivation to work out will diminish with no basketball unless I stay up until who knows when to watch my favorite players in Europe. If I am up all night, my productivity level at work will be close to zero. I'm going to end up fat and unemployed."

Fat and unemployed is exactly what Bulls fans don't want to happen—to themselves or the players.

Scott Bolohan is a RedEye special contributor.

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