Boy Who Went to Flu Game Sells Ticket on 25th Anniversary, Sees it as Gift From Late Dad
Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images. Pictured: Scottie Pippen, Michael Jordan
Chase Rogers opened the front closet and found the clear plastic sleeve folder holding all the things his father had given him.
Signed boarding passes from Julius Erving, Tony Dorsett and Jim Plunkett. The tickets from games he went to with his dad, including a game in Sept. 1990 at Jack Murphy Stadium to see another hitting clinic put on by Tony Gwynn.
And then, there it was. The one ticket he was looking for.
Game 5 of the 1997 NBA Finals in Salt Lake City.
He kept the stub while the majority of the Utah Jazz crowd left it on the Delta Center floor that night after a sick Michael Jordan rallied from whatever he had to beat them again.
Of the 19,911 fans sitting in the crowd that night, Rogers, then 13, was one of the most shell-shocked. He found himself in a dirty shirt flipped inside out sitting with three Nike employees.
Earlier that day, the employees — Ken Black, Elliott Hill and Ray Butts — arrived in Utah to catch the game on the way home to Portland. Upset at the cost of the change fees, they took it up with a Delta employee at the Crown Club.
Her name? Mary Rogers.
Rogers found the goodness in her heart to fudge some details and soon enough the guys from Nike had a changed flight for the next morning at a cost that wouldn’t get rejected by Nike corporate. Realizing the Finals game would be at the destination where they’d have to transfer through, they called their NBA contacts for some seats and ended up with four.
To pay her back for her kindness, Rogers was asked if she wanted to go to see the Utah Jazz against the Chicago Bulls that night.
“You’ll take my son,” she said, giving Chase a golden ticket to what would go on to become one of the most famous games of all time.
Finding young Chase proved to be a challenge, as there were plenty of places he could have been on his skateboard. Mary found her son with just enough time to spare — he didn’t even have time to change his shirt — and drove him in her 1993 Dodge Caravan to the arena, where the Nike executives met him.
The view from the last-minute seats weren’t anything to boast over, but he was in. The $28.50 face value wasn’t indicative of the secondary market, where people around him had paid $300 for theirs. Even from that distance, it was clear that something was wrong with Michael Jordan. The way he walked back to the bench after being out on the court and the way he was attended to when he sat down.
“Does your father bring you to games?” Hill asked.
That’s when he told them. Three months to the day, his father, Tom Rogers, had died by suicide.
In a strange way, the Utah Jazz picked the kid up. It gave him life. Karl Malone, John Stockton and crew won 16 of their last 20 games heading into the NBA Finals.
For the Nike guys, hearing the response was a gut punch. But having the kid there all-of-a-sudden meant more.
In the coming years, Rogers forgot much he was spoiled that night, undoubtedly due to the indelible images of Jordan doing the impossible — scoring 38 points in a two-point win — in what is now referred to as “The Flu Game.”
As tickets have become collectible in the last couple years, PSA, which grades cards, have now started to grade tickets.
How many tickets were kept to a certain game often has to do with not only the result, but whether the home crowd got their win.
Because “The Flu Game” was played in Utah — where pictures of the game show no more than a sprinkle of people wearing Bulls red — the number of tickets that have survived are very few.
To date, only six stubs from that game have been graded by PSA.
With the 25th anniversary of the game approaching, Chase Rogers went to go find the ticket after hearing that a collector offered to pay $7,500 for it.
He found the folder, which he saved in a move 18 months ago, and then the ticket.
“It’s funny,” Rogers said. “I kept that folder and everything in it, because a piece of my father was in me. He had OCD. Part of what killed him was his perfectionism. But without that, I would never have saved it.”
Seeing the ticket brought back memories Chase shared with his father watching the Jazz. The family shared season tickets in the old Salt Palace days. When they weren’t in the arena, they’d watch games together in the basement with a Pepsi and peanut M&Ms always by his dad’s side.
As for the decision to let the ticket go, Rogers says he thinks of it as getting to use his “Golden Ticket” twice.
Tickets are unlike common cards in that the population is so few. It means that some of the rarest tickets, including a game like the Flu Game, might sell once every three or five years. In this market, it means neither the buyer or the seller has a good comp to go on. But here we had a match of interested buyer and a seller with an offer worth taking.
“I honestly felt accepting the generous offer was like it was a direct gift from my dad that he orchestrated for me to receive 25 years ago,” Rogers said.
The story also was special to the collector.
Despite having 700 tickets in his collection, the tale of the person who used the ticket and the background behind it was never more important.
I know, because the buyer is me.