Bears Family Night is an annual tradition. Fans buy tickets and go to Soldier Field to watch the Bears practice in the mothership, at Football Ground Zero, on a summer evening in Chicago. A breeze can blow in off Lake Michigan and the evening ends with a fireworks display. Fans were excited to be attending on Friday, August 5.
Except that is not how it played out.
The playing field was in such bad shape that it would have been dangerous for the practice to take place. See that word? Dangerous. The sod has all shrunk up and there were gaps in the grassy playing surface. Running players -- or even someone who was not looking down -- could trip in the gaps, fall and twist something or break something or worse. Dangerous.
Attending an event of this nature is not cheap. There is the cost of parking (roughly $20) or public transportation. There is the admission ticket. Food has to be purchased for each member. Souvenirs may be acquired and the mothership offers few bargains in the gift shop. One would think the Bears and the Chicago Park District would want to make sure field conditions were tippety top to give the fans a good experience. One would, but apparently neither the Bears nor the Chicago Park District nor the groundskeepers at Soldier Field give a rat's rump about it.
It's like they've never seen grass before. They can't blame it on the winter -- it is August. They can't blame it on the lockout; Soldier Field had a major soccer event, played on that grass, just two weeks ago. Someone obviously didn't think to check on field conditions and then be on whoever was responsible (and on them and on them) until they were assured things were perfect and then went and checked personally to ascertain that this was true. The local media was calling it an embarrassment. Yeah, it's that but mostly it's shameful.
The Bears packed up and went back to Bourbonnais where the practice surface is excellent. That is right: a professional football field is a piece of junk and this minor college playing surface is superior. The fans were left with the concessions being opened but also provided free food and drinks, and, at 9:15, fireworks. The Bears might have refunded the money, apologized sincerely, and said, "We are sorry, please stay for the fireworks and food. Here is your admission price back." Nope, they kept the loot, probably to pay for the fireworks because the knuckleheads just love them some profit.
From everything I've read, the Bears did not mix with the fans at all. The Gods returned to their jerkwater Olympus without having to be sullied by the touch and smell of mere mortals.
Let's recap. Bears Management, Solider Field groundskeepers, the Chicago Park District don't care enough about the fans to do their jobs correctly, i.e. treat the fans with respect. The Bears players don't care enough about their fans to go out of their way to thank them for spending their salaries on their hometown team. Management thinks overpriced nachos and exploding colors will make up for not seeing the team practice.
I am wondering what the terms of condition were on the ticket. The fans bought a ticket that was a contract between the Bears and the ticket purchaser. I am assuming rain or shine but I would suspect there would be a proper assumption of the appearance of players. Of course, the Bears had the assumption that they would be provided with a safe work environment; they were not and retreated. It was a bad situation for everyone except for whoever would monetarily benefit from this fiasco. "Whoever" managed some nice profit.
UPDATE: A coworker was in attendance and she reported back to me that they didn't let people in until 6:15 pm instead of 5 pm and told the fans nothing as they waited. The Bears had already left for Bourbonnais when people were let in. Food was free for all those who bought tickets (there were free tickets for vendors and suppliers but there was also to be a special food area for them). Parking was free for those who drove (those on public transportation were not as fortunate). The ticket price was refunded in full for those who bought tickets (no compensation for those who got free but they were free tickets, so be quiet). The fireworks were pretty good.
Some Bears have Twitter accounts. Robbie Gould, well known as my fave, said the ticket price should be refunded in full (which it was). A large defending Bear who shall remain nameless said he felt bad for the fans. Really, large defending Bear? Chin music. Last year this large defending Bear was among those Gods who never signed a single autograph at training camp.
Veteran Center and ex-Bear Olin Kreutz spoke of retirement after he was treated so shabbily by the Bears but has wound up with a one-year contract with the New Orleans Saints. Led by Drew Brees, the Saints are solid players in a solid organization that could very well be contenders. I think it sucks that we lost Kreutz and fear his loss will not bode well for the Bears.
Congratulations are in order for ME! On August 2, 2010, I wrote my first blog about driving to Bourbonnais to attend Bears Training Camp. Since then I have determined that it really is a game and just because I watch it and they lose, doesn't mean I should be upset. I have two whole followers (thanks, Suzy and Tulip) and a link to my site from a well trafficked food blog (thanks, Blue Kitchen). It took several weeks to admit to my family members that I had a blog about sports (it was met with gales of laughter because the way I presented it was so ridiculous and serious) which I had to admit I was writing for myself alone. I am still doing it for myself but if someone can say, "Well, yeah, that's pretty true," then I can have some satisfaction. I am not going to retire the blog. Why would I? The lockout is over and there's a lot of criticizing I can do and 300-pound, six-foot-eight-inch men to fascinate me. On we go, then! Thanks for reading.