I’m not entirely without them, which is why I managed to see last season’s opening game from a skybox at Chicago’s United Center — albeit one perched way at the top of the arena, which was like watching the game through the wrong end of binoculars. Kevin had better seats, because he has contacts who work for the Bulls. One is a fellow by the name of Michael Jordan.
In 1993, Kevin wrote a letter to the greatest basketball player of all time explaining that he and Sheila were planning an excursion for their 10th wedding anniversary, and out of all the places in the world to celebrate, they had decided to come to Chicago to see him play. Kevin obtained game tickets through a high-priced broker, and told MJ that it would be the highlight of their trip if he would grant them “a minute or two after the game to shake your hand.”
His Airness gets as many requests from fans as God does prayers, but has not nearly the same capacity to respond. So Kevin was not too surprised when he didn’t get a reply. Undaunted, he wrote another letter, sending it to arrive via next day air on MJ’s birthday, and enclosing some Macadamia nuts and a Hawaiian lei as a birthday present.
He got a letter back from a spokesperson for Jump Inc., Michael Jordan’s public relations company. On behalf of MJ they thanked the Kanekoas for their support, but declined a private meeting given all the demands on his time. About a month later Kevin and Sheila received an autographed card and number 23 jersey, which Kevin would be happy to sell to anyone who makes him an offer of the sun plus the moon and all the planets.
The couple made their trip to Chicago anyway, bringing along another gift package for MJ, filled with golf balls and Macadamia nuts. At the stadium, the wily Kevin asked an usher to direct them to a meeting with MJ, whom he said was expecting them. The usher of course eyed Kevin the way he would a cup of spilled beer, so the young man from Hawaii indignantly insisted on speaking to the head usher. The head usher then put them in touch with someone from the Bulls promotions staff, with security people lurking not far away. “I guess I kind of stalked him,” Kevin said with a mischievous grin.
Several minutes of conversation passed before the Bulls staff figured out that while the fans had traversed four time zones to get there, they were indeed from the same planet. Satisfied that the Kanekoas meant no harm, wariness gave way to a sense of customer appreciation. The Bulls staff even gave them press passes to see another game from courtside.
Also, they were guided to the employee parking lot, where they stood in sub-zero weather (to Hawaiians, it must have seemed like absolute zero!) for two hours and met with Bulls players as they exited after the game — except for MJ, who parked in a secured location inside the stadium. So they never did get to meet their idol in person, but Kevin and Sheila did chat with several other players, including the team’s other superstar, Scottie Pippen, who recognized them as the couple holding up an “Aloha from Hawaii” sign during the game.
The Kanekoas made another trip to Chicago last February, where they were once again given VIP treatment, including a tour of the new stadium, which had been built since their original visit. They might have gotten even more attention, except Hillary Clinton decided to take in the same game they did. I met Kevin at a “1,001 Marketing Tips” seminar I put on a couple of months ago in Honolulu for the Hawaii Plumbing & Mechanical Contractors Association. He was thrilled to meet someone from Chicago. Never mind the perfect weather and spectacular scenery for which his home state is renowned. Paradise to Kevin means proximity to the United Center.
Likewise, I was glad to meet him. I’d never imagined it possible to encounter someone from Hawaii who goes on vacation to Chicago in February. I pay tribute to his pluck, even while I reserve comment on his judgment.
Part of my seminar dealt with add-on sales and upgrades as an easy way for plumbing firms to boost profit margins. Kevin should have been the one teaching the course.