Behind the scenes look at Bear Chris Harris’ Twitter tour
BY SEAN JENSEN firstname.lastname@example.org August 24, 2011 2:09PM
Updated: October 18, 2011 11:29AM
Bears safety Chris Harris didn’t know what he was in for.
Neither did I.
When we chatted on one of the early days of Bears training camp, I tossed out the idea of spending the day interacting with Twitter followers in some fun and different ways.
He loved it.
That was the easy part.
The execution was something different.
Fortunately, Dan Shuftan, a young man who wears many hats, helped me finalize some portions of this Twitter Project. He’s the CEO of State Street Sports (www.statestsports.com), and he’s also the head of marketing for Four Corners Tavern Group, which owns and operates eight bars and restaurants in Chicago.
Here are some highlights of our Twitter tour together on Tuesday:
Matt from Zip Cars Chicago (@ZipCarsChicago) picked up Harris (@ChrisHarrisNFL) in Niles. I was landing at O’Hare around that time, with my flight from New York’s LaGuardia Int’l Airport delayed due to the weather in Chicago. On my cab ride into the city, I called Harris and suggested we call an audible.
We had announced that we would be heading to “The Bean” at Millennium Park at noon. But, with a steady downpour, I figured a change was in order. I called the Harold Washington Library (@ChiPubLib), which isn’t too far from “The Bean,” and I was granted permission to take some pictures with Harris interacting with fans in the gorgeous lobby.
It didn’t hurt that several staffers were fans of Harris and the Bears.
Harris signed several autographs, posed for pictures and even conducted an interview with NBC Chicago.
But I talked to Note Sangern (@NoteSangern) and asked him why he ended up stopping by.
“Actually, I don’t follow you guys,” Sangern said. “I keep my timeline streamlined.”
Well, all right then.
He then explained that he saw our stop re-tweeted, and he was only a few blocks away, so he decided to meet Harris.
“I just happened to be looking at my Twitter feed,” said Sangern, who later bragged that he’d shaken hands with Roger Ebert, Jarrett Payton, Sarah Spain of ESPN Chicago and Harris with the tagline “#superbrag.”
Sangern also added me, but I think he was just being nice.
We headed to Sidebar Grille, one of the restaurants that are a part of the Four Corners Tavern Group. Shuftan, of course, made arrangements, and they were sweet. First, Sidebar is just across the river from the Sun-Times headquarters, and the food was excellent (I, of course, tried the Korean steak wrap).
But the best part was the conversation with Derrick Thomas (@Derrick_Thomas) and his Cook County colleague Joy Logan.
Many topics came up, from the NFL, to the Bears, how Harris uses Twitter and even to a discussion on our favorite television shows. We got a big laugh, in particular, talking about HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, and Shuftan and I both had the same favorite: the one in which Larry David picks up, umm, a street worker so he can use the HOV lane to get to a Dodgers game.
Toward the end, Thomas revealed something funny: he followed me but not Harris.
That, he explained, is because he uses Twitter for breaking news.
“I follow football and basketball religiously,” he said. “I don’t follow athletes.”
Thomas has yet to Tweet.
But he said he enjoyed his lunch with Harris and admired his normalness.
“It was really cool,” Thomas said. “It was a once in a lifetime experience.”
We literally drove across the Orleans Bridge, and walked to Garrett Popcorn (@GarrettPopcorn) at Merchandise Mart.
Tammy, who works in marketing for Garrett, was there to greet us. But there were also three male friends who bolted from lunch to meet Harris. Aaron Moody (@2amoody) and Brandon Patrick (@Juice_got_ice) work at MSDS Online, and they were waiting with friend Peter Catalano (@juventus559).
Catalano, who went to all but one game last season, was given the heads up on Harris at Garrett by one of his friends.
Patrick said he’s a Bears and Harris fan.
“He’s one of my favorite football players. He’s just funny,” Patrick said. “Half the stuff he tweets is hilarious to me.”
Patrick referred to some of the debates Harris gets into with followers, who get upset then un-follow him.
“Then they end up following him again,” Patrick said.
Patrick said he also follows other Bears like receiver Devin Hester.
“But Hester be talking about stuff I don’t need to be worrying about right now,” Patrick said, noting that the Bears receiver often tweets pictures of his son.
Ultimately, though, Patrick and Moody say what makes Harris inclined to be so active on Twitter.
“The way they live their lives, is so similar to our’s, but you never think of it that way,” Patrick said.
Added Moody, “You get to see that it’s a real person.”
The Zip Car — a Ford Escape — takes us from downtown to Athans Luxury Motors in Morton Grove. On the way, Harris notices that legendary Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt is suffering from dimentia. Harris tweets his condolences.
At Athans, owner Pete Athans gives us a tour, showing off his very, very impressive memorabilia collection, as well as a waiting room that has two Need for Speed games as well as several big-screen flat screens.
Athans also shows off a rare Ford, and an Aston Martin with only 900 miles on it.
Then, Harris gets to test drive a supercharged Audi S6 with follower John Spiropoulos (@chic1ty).
The two have a great chat, with Harris even sharing that he considered becoming a math teacher.
Off to Dick’s Sporting Goods in Niles, where a line has formed waiting for Harris to sign footballs, mini helmets and pose for pictures.
Adam Lube (@adam_lube) just missed us at Athans, so he raced over to Dick’s, where he purchased a football for Harris to sign.
“It’s just cool. These guys are normal people,” Lube said.
Lube follows a lot of different people, including athletes like Harris and celebrities like Charlie Sheen and Kim Kardashian.
“I like to hear what they say,” he said. “It’s amusing.”
Harris walks into Brunswick Zone in Niles, and kids swarm him. Three of them are with Bill Skinner (@Bill_Skinner), who lives in nearby Des Plaines.
“We live close by, and I thought it would be fun to come by and meet him,” Skinner said. “They were dancing.”
Harris was supposed to bowl one game. But, with his ball in tow, he decided to compete on two different lanes.
On one, he was against the three boys, including Skinner’s son Liam. On the second, he was competing against Zel Velande, a regular at the bowling alley.
Midway through the first game, Harris is sweating, and he’s got a comfortable lead on the boys.
But he’s trailing Velande, eventually losing 179 to 151.
He demanded a rematch.
He gets off to an early lead, but he leaves the ninth frame empty, while Velande gets a strike.
He loses by one pin.
“I needed the 191 (the score on the other lane) against her,” he said.
Earlier, though, he jokingly admitted that Velande “intimidates me.”
THE END… OR IS IT?
As we head to the parking lot, we all assume the day is over.
But a woman bolts out of her car, running toward Harris with a Bears helmet. She explains that she’s married to Ulises Marquez (@ulisesmarq), a pizza delivery man we actually met at Garrett Popcorn.
While working, he noticed that Harris was at Garrett, and he illegally parked his car, raced up to the store and snapped a photo with him. He reminded Harris that he once asked him how much he tipped a pizza delivery guy. Harris told him that it depended on his mood.
Although he wanted to stay, he did not want his car to get towed. So, he asked his wife — clearly a very, very loving woman — to chase Harris down all the way in Niles.
Harris, of course, was happy to oblige, even posing for a picture with her and her son.
“Wow today was fun,” Harris tweeted. “Shout out to all my followers I got to meet.”