New Castle News

January 30, 2014

Tim Kolodziej: A hot, hot ticket on a cold, cold night

Tim Kolodziej
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — How bad do you want it?

I know, I know.

I’ve asked that question dozens of times in this space. And I’m going to ask it again today.

It’s one we all need to hear, whether we’re a young athlete, an entrepreneur or a community leader.

Or, to put it another way: How much are you willing to suffer to achieve your goals?

Yep, I’ve asked THAT question more times than I can count, too.

On Monday night, I was actually forced to answer it.

Here is my story.

“Of course it is.”

That was my reaction as we turned on the radio and heard: “Traffic backed up for miles on the Parkway East toward Oakland and the Squirrel Hill Tunnel.”

We had left nearly three hours earlier than the 7 p.m. tipoff. Yet somehow, at that moment, I realized three hours might be pushing it for the usual one-hour drive.

So we sat. In traffic. For as far as we could see. We looked behind us and the line was even longer.

And we talked. And laughed.

We pointed to landmarks in the Pittsburgh skyline.

I told stories about my adventures in the Steel City “back in the day.”

We even pulled our seats back and rested our heads awhile.

We rejoiced when our car moved a few feet. How’s that for perspective?

Are we there yet?

We moved a few more feet and I could see an electronic sign just ahead. “Estimated time to the exit: 26 minutes.”

The exit was less than a mile away.

How bad do you want it?

How much are you willing to suffer?

The sign lied.

We entered lower Oakland nearly 50 minutes later.

More traffic awaited. Another 30 minutes of inhaling fumes from the truck in front of us.

More sight-seeing.

More red lights and construction signs and broken water mains awaited us, too.

More excitement building for what we would experience at the Petersen Events Center.

We finally climbed Cardiac Hill. Now it was time to park.

We looked left. We looked right. We saw the same thing no matter where we looked.

“Lot filled.”

“Permit only.”

“Staff only.”

Not a square inch of real estate on the University of Pittsburgh campus could accommodate an automobile.

“Any idea where we can park?” I asked a hospital security guard.

“Make a right at the stop sign and just keep driving.”

Of course.

We circled the area for what seemed like 10 more minutes.

But hey, at least we were moving now.

How bad do you want it?

How much are you willing to suffer?

We finally parked. At the very top of the nearly filled garage.

I asked the attendant how to get back to the arena.

“Oh, you don’t want to walk tonight. It’s a good 25 minutes up the hill. There’s a shuttle that comes by. Just take that.”

“When does the next one come?” I asked.

“It should be here in another 15 minutes or so.”

We started walking.

In sub-zero temperatures at this point.

Our ears hurt. Icicles were attaching themselves to our lungs. First we walked, then jogged, then launched into an all-out sprint as we saw bright lights and crowds of people gathering.

About 25 minutes later, we were there. Frozen, but thrilled.

I went to the entrance and asked where to pick up our tickets.

“Oh, you have to walk around the arena to get them.”

Of course we did.

A little deflated, but undaunted, we sprinted again for the Will Call. We secured the envelope, took an elevator, then raced up a flight of stairs.

It was nearly game time.

“Can you tell us where these seats are?” I asked an usher.

“Aw, you guys are all the way on the other side. Just make a left and keep walking for a while.”

Of course we were.

How bad do you want it?

How much are you willing to suffer?

Pitt vs. Duke.

Not just a game. An event.

Some might argue one of the biggest in local sports history.

A record crowd of 12,944.

Every seat was filled — and then some. Even standing-room-only tickets were sold out.

The atmosphere was electric. The Pitt student body was hoppin’ — literally — for the entire game.

The bright lights of ESPN were shining. Jay Bilas was calling the game.

Coach K and his nearly 1,000 wins were within yards of us. So was the likely No. 1 pick in next year’s draft, Jabari Parker, who put on terrific show.

Fun. Fantastic. Incredible.

The evening was everything we hoped it would be — and then some.

The home team lost but pretty much everyone in attendance knew they had witnessed something special.

I know I did.

A special night out with my son.

The basketball game wasn’t bad, either.

Through it all, I learned an incredible lesson Monday night: The pain of sacrifice doesn’t even compare to the joy of reaching the mountaintop.

I learned a second lesson, too. That struggle, that pain, is pretty much where life is lived. If we did the math, the time spent pursuing and hoping and working and dreaming far outweigh the actual achievement, which is often fleeting.

So, yes, ask yourself how bad do you want it? So, yes, ask yourself, how much are you willing to suffer?

But let me add something to that today:

Be sure to focus on the process. Be sure to “be present” and enjoy the moments — all of them, even the difficult ones. And be sure to relish that time spent with those special teammates in your life.

The climb is never easy. But the view is so, so worth it.

Happy birthday, David.

I’m glad you had fun, too.

I can’t wait to do it again.