Will Bears move ease suburban shame?

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The Chicago Bears have signed a purchase agreement for the 326-acre site of Arlington International Racecourse, a potential site of a new stadium that would replace Soldier Field.
The Chicago Bears have signed a purchase agreement for the 326-acre site of Arlington International Racecourse, a potential site of a new stadium that would replace Soldier Field. | Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

The Chicago Bears calling Arlington Heights home might make life easier for a whole lot of people.

Last week Ald. Harry Osterman said he wants the city to try to keep the Bears so he won’t have to drive to Arlington Heights to see them play.

Mr. Osterman, you do know that Metra goes to Arlington Heights, right? Of course you don’t want to drive there to watch the Bears. Who wants to see the Bears? Or drive anywhere? Hop on the train, if you must. It makes life so easy.

The other day I wanted to go to a reception at the Newberry Library. The event was an hour long, 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. and I paused, considering the “getting there” part. Leave home … what? … 2:30 p.m., to be on the safe side. Crawling down the Edens because everybody has to slow down and watch some idiot change a tire. Squeeze onto the Kennedy. Overland to Bughouse Square.

Three hours of driving, round trip, for an hour’s mingling.

Or … I thought. There’s the Skokie Swift to the Red Line. Lets you off two blocks away, on Chicago Avenue. Also 90 minutes each way. But at least I’d be sitting down, reading.

So that’s what I did. The reception was in the Newberry parking lot, and conversation was as interesting as I had hoped: about the history of handwriting (with the curator of a future exhibit) avant-garde women (with the curator of the current exhibit) and lots about Dante — OK, that was a logorrheic spiel I delivered to the head of adult classes, volunteering myself to give a talk on how the Divine Comedy is funny. I tried to stop, particularly when I noticed her shooting those little “Please somebody save me from this” glances in all directions. But once I get going, it’s hard for me to hit the brakes.

Try to never drive anywhere in Chicago. As for the wisdom of the Bears moving to Arlington Heights, here again, as with Dante, the less I say the better. I try to respect other people’s joys. But have you been to a Bears game? They’re awful. I’ve gone twice. The first was very, very cold — I can see why they’d want a domed stadium in Arlington Heights. Makes perfect sense, and since most folks are watching at home on TV, or not at all, who cares if the game is being played on the lakefront or in the suburbs or the moon? And the second was an early season game, warm and autumnal. It wasn’t bad, because I went with my younger son — he wanted to go, and I tried to pretend I was that kind of father. But I can’t recall even one second of the game.

Fans cheer as the Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field, Sunday, Oct. 3, 2021.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
Fans cheer as the Chicago Bears take on the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday, Oct. 3.

From my perspective, the benefits of the Bears moving far outweigh the advantages of staying.

First, it would be another blot on Lori Lightfoot’s first and, please God, only term in office. There’s the post-George Floyd riots being so badly mismanaged. And the COVID disaster, which she didn’t cause, but which still took place on her watch. Add now losing the Bears to freakin’ Arlington Heights. That might just be enough to inspire some significant opponent to hop off the bench and defeat her. Trust me, Lightfoot won’t mind; she’ll be grateful to run back into the big-money embrace of private enterprise. And Chicago might get a mayor who isn’t quite so dreary.

Second, sure, Mr. Osterman and his 2.7 million fellow Chicagoans would lose bragging rights to a truly lousy sports franchise. But those rights will transfer to twice as many suburbanites who ring Chicago and love the city as if it were our own. We will now have a ready retort when we get mocked for not living in Chicago, as we often are. I can say the most obvious thing — the main building of the new Obama Presidential Center looks like the blockhouse of a remote trading post in a Star Wars movie — and readers will sneer, “Pretty cheeky from a guy who lives in Northbrook.”

Once the Bears are underwhelming the world in climate-controlled comfort from Arlington Heights, then across the map, from Evanston to Glencoe to Niles to Beecher, suburbanites can answer in one voice: “If the suburbs are good enough for the Chicago Bears, the team of Bronko Nagurski, Mike Ditka and Walter Payton, then they’re good enough for us!

Something to look forward to regarding the Bears, which is more than fans can hope for.

If this cute puppy named Jack can call Arlington Heights home, so can the Chicago Bears.
Neil Steinberg/Sun-Times
If this cute puppy named Jack can call Arlington Heights home, so can the Chicago Bears.

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October 10, 2021 at 11:10AM

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