Believe it or not, the purest joy in sports isn't watching the team we bet on cover the spread.
It isn't stealing the NFL's best fantasy player. It isn't scalping season tickets for profit. It isn't selling an athlete's priceless autograph for the right price.
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No, sentimentally speaking, the purest joy in all of sports is being a kid at a game with a parent.
There one youngster was Sunday, in Soldier Field about 90 minutes before the Bears-Panthers kickoff.
The temperature only barely had reached 40 degrees on the way to 41 at game time. The wind was blustering from the northeast at between 15 and 20 mph. Only a few thousand of the eventual crowd of 62,254 had dared to arrive so early.
In the last row of Section 433 of the upper deck, south 5-yard line extended, sat a man and a boy, presumably a father and a son.
They were at the top of the stadium, so high up that they might have needed a Hubble telescope to find Planet Earth. The only thing their seats were close to were the worst in the house.
Adult and child were bundled up because summer was gone and winter was coming on. Yet they settled in about 10:30 a.m., in that top row of Section 433, in the elements, in anticipation of a Bears game still a long way off in time and space.
My mind wandered back to a different sport, ballpark and month but equally as chilly a day.
I have been to Super Bowls, World Series, Final Fours, NBA Finals, Stanley Cup Finals, major golf tournaments and just about all of Chicago's significant sports events in recent decades, so people ask what my favorite memory. To be honest it was difficult to choose.
Then, looking up at the top row of Section 433, it came to me: The one game most vivid in my memory is that April baseball game in the old Comiskey Park.
The mass transit ride from Logan Square to Bridgeport … the White Sox and Yankees … Bronx Bomber bombs by Mickey Mantle, Moose Skowron and Hank Bauer … egg sandwiches my mother made for us … most of all the boy being me and the man being my father.
We shivered that day like they must have in the top row of Section 433 on Sunday. My father would have left mid-game if I didn't make him stay.
There's no sporting event like one viewed by a kid with a parent. The stadium is heaven, the athletes heavenly, the games heaven-sent.
That's what the Sox-Yankees were to me in the front row of Comiskey Park's left-field stands and what I imagine the Bears-Panthers were to that kid way up in the last row of Section 433 in Soldier Field's upper deck.
The kid's seat was way up high, yes, but with wide eyes he could make out everything just fine and with his father next to him he could feel like they were perched on cloud nine.
From up there a fan can't see player contracts, performance-enhancing drugs, off-field transgressions, labor disputes or anything but a kids' game viewed through a kid's eyes.
What this youngster saw on this day was the Bears' comeback, Robbie Gould's winning field goal and the celebration all around Section 433.
Oh, what a pleasant reminder of what and when sports are at their purest.