Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip

Once-in-a-Lifetime Trip

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By Matt Rochinski
January 24, 2012

I admit it, sometimes I become numb to just how great my job is. As my wife, Tonya, often points out to me, as the Director of Interactive Media for the Charlotte Bobcats, "You get to watch basketball for a living. How cool is that?"

Little things like driving to the arena, going to practice, talking with players and coaches in the locker room, covering games from one of the best seats in the house and the fact there is an NBA basketball court just a hundred feet or so outside my office door gets lost on me because I do this every day. This is my job.

But sometimes it’s more.

Every once in a while you meet someone whose life you can impact by doing a little extra to let them experience a part of what those of us who work in sports take for granted at times.

On January 24, 2012, Christian Bodin and his girlfriend, Agnethe Bentzen, attended their first Bobcats basketball game. I worked with members of the organization to try and make it as memorable as possible for the two of them.

But these weren't just any fans – they were fans that made the trip all the way from Norway to catch a Bobcats game. That's a flight of over two hours from Norway to the Netherlands, an eight-hour flight from the Netherlands to New York, a four-hour train ride from New York to Washington, D.C. and an eight-hour train ride from D.C. to Charlotte.

All to see a Bobcats game. Now that’s dedication. So why did they do it? Thanks to the NBA Live video game and our Bobcats live chats.

"I was actually introduced to the Bobcats by my stepbrother. He played basketball since he was 12 years old and I was more into soccer so I really didn't know much," Bodin said of how he began following the Bobcats. "He introduced me to the NBA Live video games and told me to just pick a team. That was the first game that the Bobcats were on, and I think they were rated like a 58 while all the other teams were like an 85. They had the orange jerseys and had Gerald Wallace, who was such a great athlete, and I just started following them."

Our live chats were the perfect place for Bodin to start talking about the Bobcats with other fans. Three years ago when I started live chats during games on bobcats.com, I’ll admit I would have been surprised if five fans showed up to talk. But more did and they keep coming back. Along with BlockParty, BosnianBobcatsFan, UK Bobcats, McBeastie, Jovox and TusconDave to name a few, "Norway" has been with us on the chats since the beginning. These guys have seen us go from 20 to 450+ fans on our average chats. They’re the diehards.

So when I learned Norway was actually Christian Bodin from Norway, who joined our chats at 1 a.m. overseas just to talk Bobcats, I told him if he ever got the chance to get to the states and visit Charlotte, I’d get him to a Bobcats game. Three years later, he walked through the doors at Time Warner Cable Arena for the first time about three hours before Charlotte tipped off against the New York Knicks.

"Planning a trip to the U.S. is really expensive and had to save a lot of money," Bodin said. "We have been planning for three years to visit my friend in California. So after we finally decided to go, I told my girlfriend that if we go to the United States, there is no way that I am not going to a Bobcats game. We planned for one week on the East Coast and are going to California tomorrow."

With just one shot at creating this memory, the pair was given tickets at center court about 10 rows up, got to meet players like Derrick Brown and Matt Carroll when they entered the building early and watched Head Coach Paul Silas’ pregame press conference before getting autographs and pictures with coach thanks to Vice President of Communications B.J. Evans. From there it was on to the Team Store to buy an authentic Tyrus Thomas jersey ("Do you know how much these are to ship to Norway?" he asked me.) After that, there were more autographs to be had and a game to watch.

Charlotte didn’t get Bodin and Bentzen a win, falling to the Knicks, 111-78. But they could not care less about the end result.

His girlfriend caught a T-shirt during the Time Warner Cable T-shirt Toss and he grabbed a gift card in the Time Warner Cable Parachute Drop. They both made it on the Webber Dentistry and were proud to "Stand Up" for their Bobcats on the big screen entering the fourth quarter. And to top it all off, Bobcats Sideline Reporter Stephanie Ready interviewed the two of them in the second half about their trip and it was seen live on SportSouth.

"That was crazy. I didn’t even know what was going on – this whole day has been like a dream," said Bodin. "It was great. It’s so surreal to see the players up close because I’ve been up at 1 a.m. watching these guys on my computer screen for three years. You guys get to see them every day. For me, just being able to see them is amazing."

It’s nights like this that make me appreciate what we do each day even more. Thank you, "Norway," for a great visit.

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