The Walter Payton Statue Debate

| September 16th, 2009

We take a moment away from the 2009 season to discuss a topic currently making the Chicago media rounds.   The Chicago Park District has announced they are against the placement of a Walter Payton statue in the area outside Soldier Field.  From the Tribune:

According to a Payton family spokeswoman, park district officials
explained that Soldier Field and the area surrounding it is to be
preserved strictly as a memorial to war veterans. There also is concern
a Payton statue outside of Soldier Field might diminish the stature of
other former Bears Hall of Famers.

The park district, which oversees Soldier Field and its grounds,
reportedly offered to have the statue placed at any other Chicago park.

While there will surely be an outpouring of support for Sweetness from the city of Chicago, count my vote on the ‘nay’ side of the issue.

Before I explain, let’s throw out the idea of Soldier Field being predominantly a salute to veterans.  Soldier Field is a football stadium and its significance in military history is merely symbolic.  It is a beautiful, fitting symbol but a symbol nevertheless.  The statue outside the nation’s premiere football facility should reflect the game played inside.

As for their second point…it’s a good one.  When you place a statue outside a ballpark, the statue should represent everything the organization stands for, on and off the field.  In that regard, Payton fits the bill.  But the player immortalized should also reflect the team during it’s finest days and that argument can not be made for the era in which Payton played.

Why?  Because of George Halas.  Halas won 324 games.  He won 6 NFL championships.  He was named coach of the year twice in the 1960s.  Football – and that means Soldier Field – are in Chicago (and arguably America) because of George Halas.   Halas, in his trademark hat and glasses, belongs outside Soldier Field.  (He served in WWII from ’43-’45 if that helps.)  Too many people have asked me over the years what the “GSH” on the uniform stands for.  Too many people are quick to forget the history of this great game in favor of scoring fantasy points.  If a statue will great us at the entrance, let it be of the man responsible for our being there.  Let it be of George S. Halas.