Sunday, May 1, 2011

A visit to Soldier Field

I was pleased to win tickets for Bears Expo 2011 and since not a single person with whom I am friendly expressed the wish to join me, I went alone and had a great time. 

For sale:  Tight end on a stick
Bears Expo is an annual lovefest for Bears fans, young and old.  There are activities for the kids and wish-they-were-still kids -- kicking a ball over the goal post (or trying to), running and catching a ball (mostly succeeding).  A family (or a middle-aged single woman) could have their picture taken on the field.  I ended up walking around inside Soldier Field at least twice; I got a tour of the locker room which exited through the inflatable Bear, just like the Bears do on game day; got to sit in on a four-person Q&A session with former Bears greats Steve McMichael, Reggie Phillips, Neal Anderson, and Tom Thayer; play Bears Bingo -- a huge fan favorite featuring free crap with Bears logos, Bears signatures, and a portable grill, and a lot of Bears fans who sit quietly and orderly, listening for their numbers; and have my picture taken with the son of late Bears great Walter Payton, Jarrett Payton, proving I am not crazy because Jarrett Payton is very handsome and who wouldn't want their picture taken with a young, handsome man who has put his arm around one?   I also took my picture with Staley, the Bears mascot.  (Literally.  I like holding the camera, jamming heads together with someone, and taking the picture myself.)

Guys awaiting their chance to not kick the ball through the goalpost
At the Q&A, someone asked the former Bears if they thought football had gotten soft.  Steve McMichael, a/k/a Mongo, thought yes, the rule about hitting the quarterback in the head was soft (and no fights in hockey was also soft) but added with great sarcasm that the owners were smart to protect the cash cow that is the QB.  (McMichael is also of the opinion that when a coach runs a drill, he is not doing the kids any favor by not having them run the drill at 100% of their ability which makes good sense because it is the same in theatre but there is no risk of head trauma in theatre unless you are in the Broadway cast of "Spiderman.")  Neal Anderson said yes, he thought it had gotten soft, but when he watched his kids, ages 12, 7, and 5, play, he was glad it was softer (Neal is very proud of his kids, mentioning them at least three times).  Tom Thayer, every bit the solid piece of manmeat he was as a player and, really, a good football broadcaster, opined that people in professional football know exactly what they are signing up to do.  So yes, football is softer for them which surprised me in light of all that has come out about CTE in the last year.  I was glad I did not ask any of my questions about their concerns and fears about CTE because, frankly, the crowd was not there to wonder about whether professional football should continue as it is; they were there to love them some Bears and I just went with the sweeter, less provocative, more loving approach the other fans offered.

Not a loser, but solid proof I am not the opposite, either
As soon as the Q&A session was over and the fans swarmed over for autographs and pictures, the Bears Drumline set up right next to where I was sitting and starting playing.  I assure you, and this you can take to the bank, sitting next to a drumline is every bit as loud as you think it is.

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The NHL has teamed with the Rothman Research Intitute in Toronto to recruit former players to track the brain health of retired players.  They are trying find those risk factors that contribute to cognitive decline and the changing mental health status of aging players.  Here is the New York Times link:
http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2011/04/27/sports/hockey/AP-HKN-NHL-Alumni-Head-Injuries.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

No, I don't think the NHL is doing it because they are getting soft.

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