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It's time to send in the clowns, elephants and jugglers. It's also time to send the Bulls on a trip only a magician can envy. You see, ever since Michael Jordan left for more golf and less work, the Bulls have usually disappeared from the win column during their lengthy November sojourn known as the Circus Trip.
As Ringling Bros. takes over the United Center, the Bulls tend to fall off their high-wire act. Matter of fact, since the 1999-2000 season, the Bulls have become steady bedfellows with futility on their circus tours. They went five straight years without winning a single game on the trip until winning for the first time in 39 tries in Utah on Wednesday, November 24, 2004. Thanksgiving turkey never tasted as good.
It's amazing to think a team, no matter how good or bad (and there were some pretty bad Bulls teams during the streak) wouldn't fluke and win a game. Three times after the trip they came home 1-12. Once they were 1-11 and two other times, 4-12.
Things have improved somewhat in recent years. The Bulls actually went 3-3 in the 05-06 season, the only time they've been .500 since the 97-98 campaign, Jordan's last. Last year's Bulls went 3-4 on the trip and came home 9-8, only the second time they were above .500 after the circus tents were dismantled.
Teams claim they bond on the road, only seldom do they win. Take last year for example. Only seven of the 30 teams in the NBA managed to have winning road records.
Major league baseball was just behind the NBA in road woes. Only eight of 30 teams had winning records away from home.
The 2008 NFL season wound up with only seven teams with winning road records, seven that finished .500 and 18 that were below break even.
The NHL's convoluted point system makes it difficult to ascertain who does well on the road but suffice it to say, not many.
This doesn't point to why the Bulls were so utterly futile during a nearly six-year stretch of nothing.
Maybe their overall record should. During the five years in which the Bulls didn't win a single game during the circus trip, they wound up a combined 106-304. To put that into perspective, the Bulls lost only 106 games during the six seasons they won the title. And, by the way, they had no trouble during the circus trip.
Talent wins out.
Which brings us to this year's Bulls. Do they have a chance of a half decent trip? Well, if you take last night, yes. They cruised to a 14-point win over Sacramento. Next up; the Lakers. Sorry folks. Even without Pau Gasol, L.A. has a guy named Kobe. Enough said. Bulls lose this one. And they probably lose the next one at Denver unless Brad Miller hits a shot with .03 seconds left and this time the refs don't wipe it out. And they probably get beat at Portland. That leaves Utah and Milwaukee. The Utah game is Thanksgiving night and I believe the home team will have one thing on their mind: turkey. Bulls steal this one but cannot contain the newest star in the league, the Bucks' Brandon Jennings, who scored 55 Saturday night.
So I have the Bulls at 2-4. Not great but not bad considering their recent history on these trips.
And now ladies and gentleman I direct you to the man on the flying trapeze!
George Ofman, an original member of The Score and a veteran of NPR, has covered more than 3,500 sporting events over the course of his career. Comments welcome.
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Posted on Feb 19, 2018