Petaluma High School assistant football coach Mike Candau didn’t hit the lottery, but what he did win wasn’t a bad consolation prize.
Candau saw all five Golden State Warriors’ NBA playoff games, including the two in Cleveland, with tickets he won from the ESPN TV/radio show Mike and Mike. He not only received the tickets, but also round-trip air fare and a hotel stay in Cleveland for games 3 and 4 and a bundle of other perks. He hit the sports jackpot by knowing the word of the day on the popular show and having his name picked from among 577,000 entrants.
“When I first got the call, I thought someone was punking me,” he said.
When he learned it was real, things happened very quickly.
“It was a whirlwind,” he said. “After I got the call, I had just two business days to get everything in order and get set up.”
In Cleveland, he was met at the airport by a limousine and stayed at the same hotel as the ESPN crew and was given food vouchers. “Everything was first class,” he said.
A total sports fans, although not necessarily an avid NBA fan, Candau initially tried to donate the tickets to the Make a Wish Foundation in exchange for a round of golf for a foursome at the Augusta National Golf Club, home of the Masters tournament.
His proposition was “politely declined,” and the Petaluman “settled” for five “unbelievable” NBA games.
“I’m now definitely a Warrior fan,” he acknowledged.
Candau was accompanied on his adventure, by his long-time friend, Sean McGuinn, and, for one special game, by his 15-year-old son. “Taking my son to Game 2 was an unbelievable experience,” he said. “It was the best part of the deal.”
Candau, who had never been to a Warriors game, was surprised to discover that there was a difference between a contest played in Oakland and one played in Cleveland.
“Oracle Arena was every bit as loud as I had heard it would be,” he said. “It was twice as loud as Quicken Loans Arena. Warrior fans didn’t need a reason to cheer. They were loud all the time. To get the Cleveland fans to react, they either showed a picture of Ben Roethlisberger or the University of Michigan insignia.”
He said McGuinn also got a reaction in Cleveland when he wore his Warriors’ T-shirt and cap to the game at Quicken. Candau wore a more Cleveland-correct “Defend the Land” Cavaliers T-shirt handed out at the game.
While in Cleveland, the Petalumans made side trips to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in nearby Canton. A highlight of the trip to Canton was the discovery of a Sonoma State University helmet worn by Larry Allen while playing for what was then the Cossacks.
The only problem with the entire experience was that it was taxable.
“I don’t know what the IRS is going to do to me,” he said.