Monday, December 20, 2010

EXTRA: I don’t “get” stadium problem

This is the not-so-primitive bowl where the Chicago Bears will play tonight. Illustration provided by University of Minnesota

The next time I hear fans of U.S.-style football talk about how “tough” and “manly” their sport is because they play in the heart of winter and are capable of handling anything (including snow and ice) that Mother Nature comes up with, I’m going to laugh in their face.

Because all of the rhetoric I have been reading and rants I have been hearing about the Chicago Bears’ visit Monday to Minneapolis to play the Minnesota Vikings makes me realize that professional football fans may be the biggest wimps imaginable.

THIS GAME IS the one affected by the fact that heavy snowfall caused the roof of the Metrodome to tear, leaving snow all over the field. So the game has been shifted to the TCF Bank Stadium (home of the Golden Gophers football program of the University of Minnesota).

For the past week, I have heard nothing but rants about how cold it will be and how there will be snow and how there may well be patches of ice packed into the turf of the playing field. It’s dangerous. It’s risky.

We’ve also heard rhetoric about the lack of beer taps in the stadium and how fans won’t even be able to bring their own alcohol into the game. That argument is just weak, coming from a third-rate drunk or two. If anything, the last thing I’d want to cope with is liquor at an outdoor winter game.

Liquor doesn’t warm people up. It only makes them numb to their surroundings, making it more likely they will do something stupid to expose themselves to the cold. All the liquor in the world isn’t going to protect a bare-chested clown with a giant “V” painted on his chest (or maybe the “N,” but, hopefully, no "B").

NOW I KNOW some people are trying to make an issue of the fact that National Football League stadiums have special features not often found in stadiums used by college programs, not even major school athletic programs.

Yet I can’t help but remember how the Bears themselves used Memorial Stadium in Champaign for an entire season when Soldier Field underwent its renovation to its current form. How can another Big 10 stadium be so inadequate for one game?

Particularly since TCF Bank Stadium is one of the newest college facilities (opening in 2009). This isn’t Memorial Stadium that literally dates back to the days of Red Grange.

About the only point I can sort of sympathize with is the fact that TCF Bank Stadium has a 13,000-seat smaller seating capacity than the Metrodome. Some people who paid perfectly good money for tickets are going to be excluded from entering, and there’s no way for them to know in advance who they will be.

YET I’D WONDER if those fans would feel any better if the game had been moved to another city entirely (which could have been a very real possibility)? TCF looks a lot better than Detroit.

So let’s see how Monday’s game winds up going, being played in a stadium whose corporate name promotes that chain of banks many of us see when we walk in our neighborhood Jewel-Osco?

That might be the only real reason to be upset. They’re playing in a stadium that sounds like it should be located just a few yards from the produce department.


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