Constable: TV makes it hard to tell if Bears are in Wrigley, Soldier Field or a suburban dome
Older fans think of Wrigley Field as the best place to watch their Chicago Bears play football and root for stars such as Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus. Many fans fondly remember Sunday afternoons in Soldier Field watching Walter Payton run the ball and iconic defenses lower the booms during the 1970 and '80s, or even linebacker Brian Urlacher waiting for the offense to show up during the first decade of this century. And future fans may have a difficult time imagining their team playing anywhere outside the spectacular domed stadium designed especially for the Bears in Arlington Heights.
Fans at home Sunday watching on television as the Bears beat Detroit 24-14 for rookie quarterback Justin Fields' first victory as a starter might not have known where the game was taking place. The game started with a mention of Soldier Field but no shot of the stadium's iconic colonnades or even a view of sailboats on Lake Michigan. The only sure sign the game was in Soldier Field was the annoying air-raid siren played before the snap when opponents had the ball, which, once you hear it on your TV, makes you overly sensitive to its intrusion and wary about tornadoes.
Whether it's Wrigley Field, Soldier Field or the yet-to-be-built-or-named DraftKings-Halas Field, fans will gripe about something, even if it's just the hassle of getting there. Instead of complaining about the traffic on DuSable Lake Shore Drive, the inbound Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways, fans in the future can moan about the traffic on the outbound Kennedy and Eisenhower expressways, the traffic jam on Route 53 and the packed train station in Arlington Heights.
Every home of the Bears has issues. At Wrigley Field, a player barreling into the north end zone had to apply the brakes quickly or risk running into the brick wall of what was left field for when the Chicago Cubs were playing. That formidable run-stopper was just 18 inches beyond the end zone. The south end zone was a half yard short of regulation, because there wasn't enough room to squeeze it all in before the dugout steps needed for baseball. And the Bears almost always opened the season on the road so as not to interfere with the last few games of the Cubs' schedule.
It was size that eventually led to the Bears moving out of the 40,000-seat Wrigley Field after the NFL insisted that stadiums have capacities of at least 50,000. Now, Soldier Field, which was revamped/ruined to increase that capacity to 61,500 before the start of the 2003 season, is the smallest stadium in the NFL and too little to host a Super Bowl.
The Bears won their first game at Wrigley Field in 1921, 14-10 over the Rock Island Independents. They beat the Green Bay Packers 35-17 in their last game at Wrigley in 1970. In all, the Bears at Wrigley Field went 201-89-20 and 5-1 in postseason play.
The Bears' first game at Soldier Field was a 10-0 victory over the Chicago Cardinals on Nov. 11, 1926, but it didn't become the team's home stadium until 1971, when they opened that season with a come-from-behind 17-16 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. By beating Detroit on Sunday, the Bears now boast a 226-161-2 record at Soldier Field.
"It has all the splendor and spectacle of ancient Rome," broadcaster Jack Brickhouse said of the Bears' new digs in 1971. "Soldier Field on Chicago's lakefront, the combat arena for the modern gladiators of the Chicago Bears."
If there is a new stadium in Arlington Heights for the 2027 season, broadcasters might talk about it being the state-of-the art facility that converted the Monsters of the Midway into the Terrors of the TIF District. Instead of showing images of sailboats, rooftop cameras can show crowds streaming into Chicago's Deep Dish Plantza vegan eateries challenging Portillo's and Lou Malnati's restaurants. And they can talk about how the NFL awarded Super Bowl 62 in 2028 to Arlington Heights.
For those of us watching on TV, we'll just be rooting for Justin Fields and the Bears to win so many games that they eventually dub the new stadium Fields Field.