An annual tradition of mine is to go to a Chicago Bears football game at Soldier Field.
I wake up early — layer up to face the unkind brisk Chicago winds that cannot help but exist this time of year — and prepare for a day immersed in football.
Tailgating usually begins about 8am for me. Show up early to grab a solid parking spot, unload the grill and meats and cigars and brews with friends and family.
We have Chicago Bears tents, Bears blankets, Bears chairs, Bears hoodies and even Bears grill gear. We eat and enjoy the company of our fellow tailgating neighbors. Chicago Bears football tailgating is a perfect community gathering spot.
When it’s time to pack up so we don’t miss kick-off, thousands of hardcore (and I’m sure a decent mix of fair weather fans) march in solidarity towards our very own Soldier Field.
It’s a tradition and a fun one. This year we altered it a little to see what else is out there.
On Saturday afternoon, I loaded into a car with a few members of my family and headed for Downtown Indianapolis.
My teenage niece who I wrote about last Sunday is a Indianapolis Colts fan. Don’t ask me how it happened. None of us know and even her story isn’t convincing.
Regardless, when we came around to picking a game this year, at first we thought about traveling to see our Bears in another city. We were going to take our show on the road. Then because we usually pick a game around the same time every year, we decided to really go outside the box. We chose the Colts v. New Orleans Saints.
My niece is the reason we ended up in Indy this weekend. We wanted to give her a live chance to cheer for her team.
I’ll be honest I went through the seven stages of grief when I realized we had no plans to see our Bears this year. I really didn’t hit acceptance until Friday night when I was packing to leave.
But I love football. I also have a Fantasy Football League roster that makes any NFL game a little more fun even if my Bears aren’t playing. Chicago also had a bye week so I could rest easy not feeling like I might be cheating on my home team.
I have not been to Indy for several years but I must say, I had a blast. We stayed right downtown at the Hyatt Regency which was a gorgeous hotel in the middle of all the action.
We enjoyed a great meal at the Colts Grille, listened to live Blues music at The Slippery Noodle on Saturday night and got to do a light version of our regular tailgating tradition before game kick-off on Sunday.
There was a healthy mix of Colts and Saints representation throughout the weekend. For anyone who watched the game, the Saints won but everyone stayed mostly cordial.
Lucas Oil Stadium is really impressive. The energy between Andrew Luck and the boys with the fans in the stands was unlike anything I have seen at Soldier Field.
In and through it all, we met great people this weekend. Folks were kind and hospitable everywhere we went.
For example, we went to pay cover for the Blues bands and it was $10/person. The doorman let four of us get in for $20 instead of $40. That’s how you make a positive, lasting impression.
In the future, we will probably stick to our home team games but it was great to try something new and different. It was cool to see opposing fans interact when you have no real stake to claim.
Indy I am excited to say I’ll be back and it is because of the experience you gave me. I am surprised to say I really enjoyed myself.
If I had to throw a flag on the plays this weekend, it would be to thank you for your sportsmanlike conduct. Especially because I wore all my Chicago Bears stuff proudly in your city and wasn’t chastised for it.