Feckless Players Union to Blame for Soldier Field Turf Embarrassment

| August 15th, 2022

Read the above tweet and understand two things.

One. J.C. Tretter is the current President of the NFLPA, the National Football League Players Association.

Two. The union did nothing to prohibit the playing of Saturday afternoon’s contest at Soldier Field.

This begs a simple question: what is the point of the NFLPA?

You can scavenge the internet and read plenty about the origin of trade unions. Most think the concept was conceived in 18th century Britain, as industry became concentrated in the cities, drawing the multitudes to work. Tailors went on strike in New York City in 1768 and in Philadelphia, the shoemakers established the first sustained union in America in 1794. These organizations were forged to protect two essentials: wages and working conditions.

When it comes to wages, the NFLPA has been relatively useless. They’ve allowed the second most lucrative sports league in the world to institute a hard salary cap. They collectively bargained the franchise tag, the most owner-friendly contract quirk in modern sports, which has an approval rating among the membership south of 0%. And, most absurdly, the NFL remains the only major sports league without guaranteed contracts for its players. From Dom Consentino at The Score:

There are some longstanding structural barriers that have prevented guaranteed contracts from becoming more common in the NFL. But contrary to popular belief, there is nothing to prevent a player or player’s agent from negotiating a contract that is fully guaranteed. In fact, that’s exactly how such deals became the norm for players in MLB, the NBA, and the NHL. The difference is that years ago, a variety of competitive circumstances provided players in those leagues with a strong enough bargaining position to establish contract guarantees as standard in ways that never happened in the NFL.

As Roger Noll, an emeritus professor of economics at Stanford University, told me: “Guaranteed contracts were created by competitive necessity.”

Noll’s point is well taken but incomplete. Guaranteed contracts were also created by bold leadership.

As for working conditions, the NFLPA has been slightly better. They excommunicated two-a-days from the football lexicon and basically eliminated practice contact. But they did nothing to prevent the proliferation of the Thursday Night Football schedule – a clear health risk for the membership – and did less than nothing to prevent the increase to a 17th game, something no one in the football world, aside from owners, wanted.

And then, Saturday happened.

Andy Reid compared the turf to his high school field. Cairo Santos complained about the “sandy” conditions. (Sandy? Fucking SANDY????) Everyone knew, hours before kickoff, the football pitch was unfit for professional use. And yet, the game wasn’t canceled. Fan money wasn’t refunded. The players all jumped onto the grass and risked their ACLs, with only a mildly concerned tweet emanating from the top of their union.

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A Preseason Star is (San)Born: Rapid Fire Recap of the First Practice Game

| August 14th, 2022

Let’s start in the only appropriate place: the disgrace that was the Soldier Field pitch. It is unacceptable. It is an embarrassment. And both coaches were crazy to put their players out there. But they did. So, I watched. Now, you read.

Quarter One.

  • Trestan Ebner is a solid kickoff return man; north to south runner who will not make mental errors. Ebner back on both early kickoffs seems to signal it’ll be his job.
  • Braxton Jones had a very strong first few drives, holding up in protecting and sealing the outside on a nice Khalil Herbert run. Jones has a chance to be a real bright spot in a potentially dark season.
  • Defensively, it’s difficult to know what this team will look like with that many starters not on the field. But Al-Quadin Muhammad paid off what’s been a very strong start to camp, getting to the QB multiple times.
  • Dazz Newsome got the first punt return opportunity and capitalized by fumbling it and then losing thirteen yards. Probably not the start he was looking for.

Quarter Two.

  • Trenton Gill’s punt off the opening drive of the quarter was a beauty. Gill was one of the players I was interested in seeing in game action and he didn’t disappoint. (He had another punt later that deserved a better outcome.)
  • Dante Pettis is given the second punt return. Have to believe the plan wasn’t for Dazz to only get one attempt. Not good for the kid.
  • Jaquan Brisker bossed the game a bit against the second (third?) string Chiefs. That’s exactly what he should do.
  • Tajae Sharpe is going to be that guy, isn’t he? Follow social media. Fans will be calling for him to start by the end of the day today.

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Friday Lynx Package [7.8.22]

| July 8th, 2022

Football will start being relevant again in the coming weeks. But not yet. Here are some links.

  • The tragedy at Highland Park left a two-year-old boy orphaned. Learn his story and read how you can lend a hand in helping his future is financially secure. A donation has already been made by DBB, on behalf of our readers.
  • Apparently, Lori Lightfoot is finally (a) taking the threat of a Bears move seriously and (b) answering her damn telephone when Ted Phillips calls. The city is now preparing their pitch to keep the Bears at Soldier Field. Do I want a dome on Soldier Field? No. But I certainly prefer that to the team moving to Arlington Heights and a dome seems to be how Lightfoot will rationale the expenditure for the city.
  • From John Dietz in the Daily Herald: “Nickol Knoll Golf Club, which opened in 1995, dedicated a spot on the third hole to former Chicago Bears running back Walter Payton. During Payton’s playing days he would spend his off-season training in this area, running up a steep vertical hill that stretched 50-60 yards.”
  • Still mindboggling that Chicago is not hosting the World Cup in 2026, after withdrawing from consideration in 2018. The statement from Rahm’s government at the time still makes no sense: “FIFA could not provide a basic level of certainty on some major unknowns that put our city and taxpayers at risk,” the statement said.” Soldier Field’s intimacy – seen as a negative on the football side now – is a major boon for a soccer match. And the World Cup doesn’t just bring a financial windfall to host cities, it also brings an emotional energy and enthusiasm Chicago could certainly use.
  • Back to the Daily Herald: “Former Cubs and White Sox player Gene Hiser has been involved with the Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities golf event for 48 years. It’s back after a two-year hiatus and will be played July 14 at Twin Orchard Country Club in Long Grove.” The event benefits some great causes, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, Children’s Oncology Services and the One Step at a Time Camp in Wisconsin. CLICK HERE to register.

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Arlington Heights, Braxton Jones, Etc. – Five Thoughts for a Thursday in June

| June 16th, 2022

Because I only use Twitter for golf-related stuff this time of year, here are some quick hit thoughts about what’s happening around the Chicago Bears as teams prepare for their only “vacation time” of the season.

  • While I’ve been a seemingly lone voice against the Bears leaving Soldier Field, it is highly likely to happen now as the city is not budging when it comes to the organization’s needs/demands. Make no mistake about it, the Bears moving to Arlington Heights is not an inevitability. Chicago could stop the move. But right now, that’s simply not happening, and the team does not expect that to change.
  • There has been discussion about the Bears being potentially sold. It’s not happening, certainly not while Virginia is alive, and certainly not before Arlington Heights is completed. Folks always think of the NFL team value in terms of the sport’s popularity, television contracts, etc. But they forget how important real estate can be. If the Jets had moved to the West Side of Manhattan, their value would be increased by $2 billion. Instead, they stayed in the Jersey swamp.
  • It has been very funny to read about the number of reps Justin Fields is getting on the practice field. The same people who are salivating over it were criticizing DBB for harping on the subject – in reverse – a year ago. These were the “they’re not building the offense around Andy Dalton” fellas. Fields is getting the reps now because he needs them. New offense. New mechanics. New players around him. A lot for a young player.
  • While the focus has been on the Bears passing game for most of this off-season, I think it shouldn’t be forgotten that the Bears were a good running team in 2021 and they’re going to be a better one in 2022. Sam Mustipher, their worst offensive lineman, has been replaced. Khari Blasingame, a battering ram at fullback, has been added. And they have implemented the most successful rushing system in the modern sport. No, it’s not a championship structure. But it is a structure that should keep the team competitive in year one of the program.
  • Who is the early talk of practice? Braxton Jones. Don’t be surprised if Jones is given a chance to be the starting left tackle when the Bears return for camp.

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Why I Love Soldier Field (and don’t care if you do).

| June 25th, 2021

“It’s a pretty special place.”

-Bill Belichick on Soldier Field


I remember the first time I saw it.

December 1st 2001.

Noah and I had driven from New York to Chicago, with a layover in some shitty town in western Pennsylvania.  We drove north up Lake Shore Drive en route to our cheap hotel room booked, ironically now, in Arlington Heights.

It appeared out of nowhere. Not through a Lake Michigan fog or Arthurian mist, mind you, but through the naïve haze of “I don’t know where the fuck I am and WAIT IS THAT SOLDIER FIELD????”

I got emotional. I couldn’t help it. It was only a few moments but in those few moments I thought of a lifetime of seeing this team, loving this team, admiring this building, in all the weird ways an out of town fan had to in the years before NFL Sunday Ticket.

I thought about the photograph of three year-old me in a Jim McMahon shirt. A shirt I still have, and until very recently, was kept on a King Louie stuffed animal.

I thought about my Steve McMichael and Richard Dent Starting Lineup figures. And how I would play with them on this Chicago Bears football field carpet I got for Christmas.

I thought about going to Jets games in the Meadowlands, in our family’s season tickets, dressed all in Bears shit and cheering every time the out of town scoreboard updated in the building. After a while the section joined in those cheers and became Bears fans.

Until that moment on Lake Shore, Soldier Field was a character on television. Gordon Shumway. George Costanza. Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer. You don’t meet those people because those people are not real. But here was Soldier Field. Real. And in a day I would get to walk through those gates.

What Do I Love About Soldier Field?

A buddy of mine, a construction guy in Woodside, met me at our local last Friday and asked me about “the Soldier Field thing”. I explained it to him as best I could, handing him my phone and Twitter feed for ten minutes while he laughed and laughed and laughed. His response was great. “You can’t get rid of Soldier Field. That’s like Fenway.” (I guess he’s a Red Sox fan but I don’t know that much about him.)

That’s what I love about Soldier Field. It’s a piece of American sports history. I travel to old, historic cities like Bruges and Dinan. I drink in old taverns, with stories etched in the barstools. When we sit and watch a football game at Soldier Field we become part of that building’s history, part of the story.

The fact that it is actually IN the city is one of its coolest elements. Soldier Field is a part of Chicago’s cityscape in a way that no other NFL stadium can claim to be. New York doesn’t have that. Los Angeles doesn’t have that. San Francisco and Houston and Dallas and Washington DC don’t have that. When you leave the building, marching with thousands upon thousands of other either jubilant or despairing fans, you’re deposited directly back into town. Back onto the L. Or into Kroll’s. Or into an Uber with Lou Malnati’s as the only logical destination.

The Bears are Chicago. Soldier Field is a big reason why.

Does Soldier Have Flaws? Of Course.

Does the building have enough men’s rooms? No. (Does any sports facility?)

Is it supremely cold in the dead of winter? Yes. (But so is the rest of the city. You want to move the whole town to the tropical climate of Arlington Heights?)

But you know what Soldier’s most pronounced flaw is? It’s the folks who sell their tickets to the out of town fans. Having been in that building 15 times, I have never seen the building more than 60 or 70% Bears fans. A third of the seats (at least) are always inhabited by those cheering for the opponents.

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Reverend’s Rant, Text Edition: Why Moving the Bears From Soldier Field is Insane

| March 1st, 2021

The following is Reverend Dave’s response to Adam Hoge’s suggestion that the Bears buy the Arlington Park property in Arlington Heights and irrationally move the team into the suburbs. 

I like Hoge, but what is the point of this article?

Question answers itself.

Didn’t stop me from getting riled up like everyone else.

“Soldier Field offers nothing in terms of convenience. It’s hard to access, with limited public transportation options…”

The fuck it does.

Hoge claims the Arlington Metra stop makes it more accessible than Soldier Field. Accessible to who? The northwest suburbs? Are those the only people who count? From Joliet south and anywhere East, Arlington is a longer drive than Solider Field.

Meanwhile, there are multiple Metra stops in walking distance of the stadium. There’s the El train. Hell, Union Station itself is only 40-minutes. I can already hear the outcries at that ambulatory demand, but as someone who has taken the train from the Meadowlands (departing a mere 50 yards from the stadium entrance) many times, a 40-minute walk is way better than 40 minutes squashed in a mass of humanity waiting on that one method of egress.

“What Chicago needs – a legitimate multi-purpose, 80,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof.”

The fuck it does.

Why do we need a roof? I don’t romanticize freezing but sitting in the cold can be fun at a Bears game, even if it’s not for Hoge. Feels a lot more like football in the cold. Would the Pack put a lid on Lambeau?  

More importantly though, how does the fan experience benefit from an extra 20,000 people? Will that make parking or accessibility easier? Do I want the air to be even thinner when I buy tickets in the nosebleeds? Do I care if the McCaskey’s make more off ticket revenue?  

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Five Thoughts on 2018’s Final Game From Inside the Building

| January 7th, 2019

Sunday’s loss to the Eagles is going to be discussed for a long time and Cody Parkey will remain the centerpiece of that conversation. But here are five (I think) unique observations from inside the building.

  • The crowd wanted to be the loudest and most intense crowd at Soldier Field in thirty years. But oddly, the defense deflated them constantly. The Eagles converted way too many third downs, and converted them with relative ease, with Foles throwing to wide open receivers under little pressure. Third down is when the lakefront faithful reached fever pitch. Building back up to that level, on a cold windy night, was not easy.
  • There was a distinct change in Mitch Trubisky after completing the 3rd-and-11 late. His confidence seemed shaken. His receivers were not winning on the outside. He wasn’t able to create with his legs because he was clearly nursing an injury. But after he completed that pass, he took control of the game. He was brilliant down the stretch and would have been the story of the game if…well, you know.
  • When the Bears spread the Eagles out, the Eagles had no answer. I wrote last week this was not a game the Bears should plan to win on the ground. That’s a great Eagles front. When Nagy spread them out, Trubisky had open receivers everywhere. Why didn’t the Bears change their approach in the second half? Why didn’t they recognize those mismatches? This was not a banner day for the coaching staff on either side of the ball.

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Aaron Rodgers, Soldier Field & An Opportunity To Become Champions

| December 12th, 2018

Photo by Jonathan Daniel / Getty Images

Aaron Rodgers has dominated the Chicago Bears. This is a fact that does not require statistical, analytical or anecdotal support. It’s as common knowledge a statement as Nazis are bad people, Roy Scheider was criminally underrated in the 1970s and a Saturday night on the Guinness makes my apartment smell decidedly worse Sunday morning.

I am not going to Google “Aaron Rodgers Record Chicago Bears”. I don’t want to molest my current football euphoria with a bunch of grabby statistics. Rodgers has dominated the Bears because since 2010, or for the bulk of Rodgers’ prime, he’s been one of the two best quarterbacks in the league and the Bears have been shit. Rodgers’ dominance is a fact. It’s just not particularly impressive.

Sunday, Rodgers will be a five or six-point underdog at Soldier Field. He brings in a mediocre team with mediocre players. But after beating a terrible Falcons team last week and watching every other sixth-seed contender in the conference lose, the Packers are still clinging to hope of playing in January and the laundry list of what they need to occur is not particularly outlandish.

First and foremost, they have to beat the Bears at Soldier Field. Something that has not been an issue in the past.

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