Friday, June 28, 2013

We’ve come a long way, security-wise, when it comes to victory parades

It seems like such an innocent time – the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl and fans turned out in downtown near the Picasso statue to publicly celebrate.

How packed will this space be on Friday?
Then-Mayor Harold Washington braved the wintry January day with his Bears stocking cap, and the fans rejoiced on that day 27 years ago.

FAST-FORWARD TO EIGHT years ago – in the days after the Chicago White Sox won the first World Series title for a Chicago ball club since 1917. The ball club boarded a bus at U.S. Cellular Field, then drove along a parade route through the Near South Side neighborhoods and wound up in the downtown area for the public celebration.

But when sports fans gather downtown on Friday to celebrate the Chicago Blackhawks’ victory this week, taking the Stanley Cup with a 4-games to 2 victory over the Boston Bruins, they’re going to see a more intense level of security on hand than any other athletic victory celebration this city has ever thrown.

Even compared to the 2010 celebration when the Blackhawks managed to win their first Stanley Cup championship in 49 years.

The Friday festivities will have the feel of that White Sox celebration (which considering the ball club’s dreadful play this year feels like a dream, maybe it never happened?) in that there will be the parade with hockey players on board a bus and assorted puck-heads lined up along Washington Street to watch the players pass by.

BUT THEY’RE BEING led into Grant Park, where the fans who persist in sticking around for a victory rally will be spread around a huge area.

Law enforcement officials say that spreading them out – rather than having them crammed into the canyon-lake space of a downtown street – makes it easier for them to maintain order.

Which in the wake of the explosions that killed a few and injured many at the Boston Marathon earlier this year is something that officials want.

The Chicago Tribune reported that there haven’t been specific threats or any evidence to indicate anyone is planning to do anything on Friday at a Blackhawks victory rally. But they claim to want to be extra-careful.

THE LAST THING that Mayor Rahm Emanuel wants is for his victory party (the first in which he will preside over as mayor) to be thrown awry by someone thinking they can use it to cause mayhem.

Noting the fact that the bombs used at the Boston Marathon were small devices brought into the area in backpacks, officials have made it clear anyone bringing any kind of bag into Grant Park for the rally will be searched.

It would be easy to just tell people to ditch the bags. But then again, there is a whole generation that relies on their overstuffed backpacks to haul around their possessions.

Telling people to ditch the backpacks would be as practical as the current orders that prohibit people from bringing cellular telephones into courthouses.

BUT IT ALSO means that the hundreds of thousands of people who will be estimated to attend Friday’s rally will largely be so far from the hockey players that they’re going to appear to be nothing but red blobs.

This is a closer view than you'll get Friday
The PA system had better work flawlessly, or else no one is going to be capable of hearing anything anybody has to say. Not that the athletes are all that eloquent! But the aura of the Cup will mean that nobody will particularly care.

Personally, I don’t plan to attend.

The distance will take away any sense that we’re actually seeing the Blackhawks. The security will make it feel like we’re in a generic crowd-scene – and not one of the rare moments when a Chicago sports team actually manages to win something!


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