Way We Were: Who’s to Blame for the Flu Game?
Perhaps it was something MJ ate
Park City Museum Research Coordinator
This story is continued from last week.
After episode 9 of “The Last Dance” aired, everyone wanted to know where that pizza came from. Who were those five dudes who delivered Michael’s pizza?
I certainly wanted to know. So I put out a call to a Facebook page called “I Remember Park City When…” made up primarily of people who were in Park City in the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. I asked if anyone knew who made and/or delivered the pizza.
A few people threw out guesses, including Park City Pizza Co., which it was not. But one person, who I will leave unnamed, was adamant that the pizza came from Lakota, a local pub, and was delivered personally by the owner and a few of his friends. Lakota was still a relatively new spot in the summer of 1997, as it had been inserted into the ground floor of the Caledonian in the fall of 1996. They really wouldn’t have been known for their pizza at the time, though they would have been open fairly late. And some of the Bulls had reportedly gone in earlier in the day for a drink or a quick bite to eat.
The other pizza places in town in 1997 were (in alphabetical order) Davanza’s, Domino’s, Little Caesars, Main Street Pizza & Noodle, Mercato Mediterraneo, Olive Barrel Food Co., Park City Pizza Co., Pier 49, Pizza Hut, Red Banjo, and Ziggy’s Ristorante. And despite a solid amount of choices and potentially decent local pizza, MJ apparently went with a known entity: Pizza Hut.
That’s according to the assistant manager of the Park City Pizza Hut in 1997: Craig Fite, a self-described Bulls and Michael Jordan fan. He spoke with Salt Lake Tribune sports columnist Gordon Monson on Monson’s radio show after the Last Dance episode aired.
Fite said he made the pizza himself, and “that pizza was made well,” as Fite was trying to impress the store manager. He acknowledged they were aware the pizza was going to the Bulls’ team hotel at the Marriott Summit Watch. He also strikes down Tim Grover’s assertion that five guys delivered the pizza – there was a security detail outside that checked everyone that went in, making it unlikely an entourage with one pizza could make it up to Jordan’s room. It was just Fite and the delivery driver. The pizza never left Fite’s hands until he handed it to Grover, who gave it to Michael.
Fite also recalled that after the flu game, the store manager he was trying to impress called to ask if it could’ve been from the pizza. But it’s hard to get food poisoning from a cooked pizza. Unless of course something extra was added after baking, which Fite denies.
If not the pizza, who else or what else could be to blame?
Some blame Michael. They believe he was drinking all night — that he possibly even took a trip to Vegas overnight to gamble — and that he was hungover the next day. Bulls reporter and historian Sam Smith, originally of the Chicago Tribune, thought it might have been altitude sickness (though basketball players’ frequent airplane trips and the delay in symptoms until the night before Game 5 seems to point away from that). It also could have been the stomach flu — a bug Michael caught in the days preceding June 10 and 11. And if Michael ate anything else that day before the pizza (which he said he hadn’t), food poisoning could still be the culprit — one other response to my Facebook query noted that Michael had golfed down at Wasatch Mountain State Park on June 10, which had notoriously tainted water at the time.
Whatever the reason, MJ had a legendary game anyway, which the Bulls won (and went on to win the series). For now, the origin of the “Flu Game” will remain a he said-he said (or he’s not saying) affair.
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