Updated: December 14, 2012 6:14AM
The offer came in late Sunday afternoon — right around the time Chicago was flipping the weather switch from autumnal to ah-geez-here-it-comes. Steady rain, winds that’ll lift your hat right off your head, and vampire-movie darkness even though it wasn’t yet 5 p.m.
Got two tickets for the Bears game if you want ’em, said a colleague. Good seats. Couple hundred bucks a piece.
My response: You’ll have to pay me a lot more than that to get me off the sofa and over to Soldier Field.
Bear down and man up
Go ahead and say it. I’m a spoiled, liberal, media elite baby-man and not a REAL Bears fan, because a REAL Bears fan would have responded to that offer by painting his face Navy Blue and Burnt Orange, packing up the tailgating gear and jumping at the chance to see a possible Super Bowl preview live and in person. Da Bears! Come on!
Maybe so, but when that debacle of a debacle ended around 10:30 Sunday night, I was mighty glad I wasn’t one of the tens of thousands of wet and icy souls trudging out of Soldier Field with the hangover of an ugly loss setting in, and the prospect of a traffic jam still ahead. (These days in Chicago, whether you’re exiting a Bears game, heading to the grocery store or driving to O’Hare at practically any given hour, there WILL be a traffic jam. Try to drive for more than five minutes downtown without encountering a construction-related slowdown.)
It’s been my great luck and privilege to attend hundreds of White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and even Cubs games over the decades — sometimes as a fan, nearly as often as a media creature covering the proceedings. But as a “civilian” just going to the game to enjoy the action, I haven’t been to a Bears home game since their NFC Championship loss to Green Bay in January 2011.
Of course there’s something energizing about attending a Bears game at the storied (albeit weirdly renovated) Soldier Field, sharing that communal experience with all those hearty maniacs wearing their Urlacher and Payton jerseys and happily guzzling their chilly beers even when it’s cold enough to see your breath. (And those are just the women.)
But for me and for millions of others, NFL football is the perfect made-for-TV sport. The multiple angles, the slow-motion replays, the super-duper-slow-motion replays, the close-ups of the coaches on the sidelines, the analysis from the former players, the cutaways to updates of other games — no sport is better suited to the hype and shine and pageantry of 21st century TV.
When you’re at a baseball game, you can enjoy leisurely conversation and (hopefully) summertime weather while still keeping up with the slow and beautiful rhythms of the game.
When you’re at an NBA game, you marvel at just how huge and fast and skilled those players are. Seeing LeBron James in person is a whole different thing than watching him on TV.
When you’re at a hockey game — when there is hockey, that is — you get to see the ballet of the line changes, the ferocity of the collisions, the amazing skating, in a way that just doesn’t translate to TV, where even on the largest screen it’s sometimes difficult to keep track of the puck. (Remember Fox’s ill-fated “glowing puck” innovation of the late 1990s?)
When you’re at a football game, you keep thinking, “I wish they had the yellow first-down line like they do on TV.”
Made for TV
Every time you see a game in person, you’re reminded of the influence television exerts over the NFL. Time and time again, the announcer tells us there’s a timeout on the field, which is code for “they’re playing another three commercials.”
Touchdown and extra point — commercial break. Kickoff — ANOTHER commercial break. And so it goes, all game long.
When you’re watching at home and they go to a commercial, you can marvel at the inordinate number of ads that feature guys in their 20s getting way too worked up over watered-down light beer, or you can shuffle over to the bathroom or the fridge (no waiting for either!) or you can click over to another game or some other show. When you’re watching in person, you can stomp your feet to get the circulation going, head over to the bathroom so you can wait in line and miss the next four minutes of the game while you absorb pearls of wisdom from your fellow fans (“Packers SUCK! Rodgers SUCKS!”), or you can try once again to get some service on your cell phone.
All the while telling yourself you shouldn’t have taken the “Under” on layers of clothing. Four just isn’t enough.