On Tuesday, 8/14/2012 I loaded up the family cruiser and took my wife and seven-year-old daughter to Bourbonnais, Illinois for our fourth annual pilgrimage to Chicago Bears' Training Camp. This is my attempt to document my experiences while there. We arrived early in hope of getting a ticket for the kid's autograph session so that my daughter would have a chance to collect a few autographs without the danger of being crushed by over-eager pre-pubescent boys and their fathers anxiously battling for an autograph from their favorite players. As luck would have it, we were early enough to get a golden ticket - literally, it was printed on gold-colored paper.
Meanwhile, my wife drove two blocks down the street and picked up some Subway for lunch while we waited and chatted with nearby fans. Approximately a half-hour prior to the start of practice, the gates opened and we were allowed into the practice facility. Passing through the gift shop as we entered, we were presented with a wide array of merchandise which we could purchase and have signed later (assuming our favorite star would notice us and sign our item). OH NO! I forgot my Sharpie!
Ahh...Boy Scouts to the rescue, the enterprising young men were selling "fanpacks" for $1 which included the free local paper, the free photo and roster card, the free Brian Urlacher fan, and a Sharpie! BTW the Urlacher fan is creepy, just so you know... My family hurried to the practice field and found front row seats in the bleachers on the 35 yard line, my daughter set up her "tent" - a folding chair topped of with her Tinkerbell umbrella to shade her from the sun - in front of us, giving me a clear line of sight for photos and to watch the action. The players slowly came out to the field, Robbie Gould showed off his leg and DJ Moore walked the sidelines giving high-fives to the kids. And for about an hour practice was slow - positional drills, some special teams walk throughs, and about a million people walking in front of me looking for a place to sit.
The only note-worthy bit was Melton taking punts with Hester. They took turns finding ways to amuse themselves, first Hester fielded a punt one-handed, Melton then followed suit. Then Hester attempted to catch the next punt behind his back, Melton was then sent off and Sanzenbacher worked his spot - I guess Taub had enough clowning around.
It was getting hot, the family went off to find refreshments, shop in the air conditioned gift shop and play in the kids' zone. For the next hour I was on my own, stuck in my seat "guarding" the chair and our stuff. That would have been great if not for the most annoying family ever. Two men and their herd filled in the space around me and proceeded to fill every moment with constant noise - "let's find food" "who is number 18" "when should we line up for autographs" "wait, what happened to Urlacher" "what time is the dinner reservation" "let's go play catch" OH MY GOSH! Really, REALLY! I love kids, I'm really very tolerant. But the noise! If they weren't three times my size, I might have said something. Even while they ate, they talked - mouths full of hot dog! Finally someone in the group asked if it was a good time to go see the kids' zone and I turned around and (yes, I lied) told them they better hurry, because it would be shut down soon.
They left just in time for 7-on-7 drills and goalline work, but they were at the other end of the field, blocked from my view by the rest of the players. I couldn't see much, but it seemed like a lot of balls hit the ground. When the team switched to 11-on-11 work, they lined up right in front of me. I was taking pictures, watching the receivers battle the cornerbacks, and enjoying life. I noticed that the starting D-Line was not working much, Peppers, Wooten, and Idonije were hanging out laughing for most of the drills. The DB's looked sharp though, and there were not many open receivers to throw to.
After practice, I gathered our stuff and met my wife and daughter in line for the kids-only autograph session. We were at the very end of the line, so my daughter was among the last of the kids waiting. I noticed one of the security girls walk over to my daughter, and pull her out of line. Not sure what was happening, I pushed up to the fron of the parents to see Robbie Gould on the other side of the fence talking to her (she was in her #9 jersey, because he is her favorite Bear). He then sent the security girl for a Sharpie - my daughter forgot she was holding one - and signed her jersey! Through the fence! I still don't know where he came from, or how he noticed her! My daughter was SO VERY HAPPY! She almost skipped getting the autographs from Nathan Enderle, Patrick Trahan, and Gino Hayes.
We stuck around for a bit after that, my daughter had drawn a picture of Robbie and wanted to get it from the car to give to him (yes, he is her favorite Bear)so we got it and found a team trainer who promised to give it to him. Finally, we went home. Training Camp is the best fan experience available for Bears' fans. The location is a little remote, but not excessively out-of-the-way. But the location, player accessibility, and overall atmosphere is fantastic. I know that my daughter enjoys going every year. I will upload my pictures soon and post the link, I hope you enjoy them! By the way. After this year, Robbie Gould is also my favorite current Bear :)