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Now I don’t have any official ticket stubs from the training camps but this still falls under the topic, kind of, of this blog series. Either way I hope you enjoy it and don’t forget to listen to us on BlogTalkRadio.

A few years ago, when the Chicago Bears moved camp down to Burbanais, IL, my dad and I decided to take the hour or so drive down there. I was excited to get up on a hot,hot day to go watch the Bears practice and maybe stand in line and get some autographs. They had stuff for kids to do but of course the main draw was the gift shop. That year all I wanted was the fitted hat made by Reebok with the George Hallis patch on it. I thought I should just wait till our way out because just like Brookfield Zoo the only way out was through the gift shop…of course…but on our way out the entire wall of fitted hats was gone and I was s.o.l. As for getting autographs, ehh, I felt I was too old to do that being that only kids were in line for that. And for my age getting autographs isn’t the same as when I was a kid. One of the biggest reasons I wanted to go was to get these stupid cardboard cut outs of (Marty Booker’s) face on a Popsicle stick. I saw them on the news and just had to go get one. Everyone loves a gimmick. When we got there my dad and I sat in the bleachers, we’re so used to seeing them on TV up close, but sitting in those stands you can barely tell who’s who. I did see Urlacher sneak onto the field, he laid down in the back of a golf cart through the player entrance and exit, so that none of the kids would bother him for an autograph. What you don’t see in my pic is the pic of him on the cover of the program signing autographs but he’s looking in the direction of the camera. Make me wonder if he only did it for the shot and then walked away. Chicago’s ABC sports guy Jim Rose was there. Yup. So as my dad and I are watching, he turns to me and says that this is not as fun as when he took us up to Plattville, WI in 1987 to see the training camp. Which was essentially the 85 Superbowl Bears.

Even though, I was only 7 years old, I never forgot this experience. We spent two days in Wisconsin and there was literally nothing else to do up there besides go to the training camp. I couldn’t tell you where we stayed, we could have camped on the grounds for all I know. We must have gone later in the camp season because they were scrimmage games going on. And at that time everyone on that team was a super star to me. My favorite part of the whole experience of course was standing in line and getting autographs and we couldn’t leave until I got Walter Payton’s autograph. So, after camp was over, we stood along the roped off player entrance & exit to get as many as we could. Doug Floutie was on the squad then, I’ll never forget that he not only signed autographs but if you were a young beautiful woman, he would step beyond the rope and pose for pics. Class act and great guy, it seemed. I recently watched him on MLB Networks The Next Great Knuckler. 25 years later same great guy I saw on TV. Mike Singletary seriously worked the entire crowd and gave everyone an autograph. He was still doing this two hours after the entire team was off the field. Nobody like him, he was there so long I got two autographs. At the time, I didn’t really know he Jim Harbaugh was but I got his and Neal Anderson’s autographs. But oddly enough, we never saw Sweetness, neither at the open of camp or the end. So after all the players went to the locker room, we moved to the players parking lot exit/entrance. We were there for hours! We saw everyone leave. My absolute favorite had to be seeing The Refrigerator William Perry leave on a red scooter type vehicle. Classic. I wish we had pics of that one. But still no Payton. We literally spent the entire day at the camp waiting for him. The next thing I know, I look around us and its my parents myself and my sister and one other family of 4. I just watched the gate and this Iroc-Z pulls up to gates, they open up, Richard Dent is driving someone’s in the back seat and in the passenger seat is WALTER PAYTON! Does he stop? NO!!! I don’t know what took over my mother and me but we took off running. I was a fast, my mom was faster. We were in such a zone, that we ignored the fact that my little sister was somewhere behind us laying on the ground crying because she tripped and fell. At least my dad stayed behind to help her I guess. The other family just didn’t keep up. We lost them somewhere. Dent would slow down enough for us to get close and then take off. This went on for several blocks, I couldn’t tell you how many but it was more than a few. After this stop and go game, finally, Dent makes a complete stop. Payton looks at my mom and me and says, “Ok, one autograph.” I hand him my paper he signs it, my mom thanks him, I thank him he looks at my mom and asks, “Is she going to be all right?” My mom shrugs it off, “yea, yea, yea, she’s fine.” As far as my autograph days go, that was the best day as kid to meet Walter Payton. Now when I look back though, I think what a jerk to do that to us over one autograph but the kid in me never let’s me dwell on it too long without saying, “Yea, but you got Payton’s autograph.” Years later, we’re telling that story and my mom is blue in the face with laughter and admits that when Walter asked if she’s going to be alright, my mom and I had no clue that my sister was down the street crying, screaming bloody murder because she tripped and fell. It can be a sensitive topic sometimes but i still got Sweetnesses autograph. All in all it just seemed more exciting as a kid going to the training camp.

But we’ll see, I live in the west suburbs of Chicago in Romeoville, IL. Our mayor John Noak has been trying to bring the training camp to Lewis University. Of course Lewis will not speak about the topic. I believe the goal is to get them here for 2014 summer training camp. Some believe that if former Chicago Bear and pro wrestler beats Noak in this Aprils election it will lock in the deal bringing the Bears to Lewis. It’s quite the little controversy here. The Bears contract with the current training facility at Olivet University is up in 2013. The rumor is the Bears would like the training camp to be closer to season ticket holders. Whether its true or not, I don’t know but if they choose to move it to Romeoville it would allow all of Chicago to access the training camp by almost any means. In 2014, construction on a train station is to begin in 2014. The train that runs through starts in the loop and ends in Joliet. The train station would be about a 5-10 minute bus ride and the hub in Joliet it stops at is about a 10-15 minute bus ride from that train station which has other connecting lines taking you to the south suburbs and back to the loop. It would boost tourism to my village, generate increased tax revenue. Plus help generate more traffic into local business that should hopefully help create more money for the villages beautification plans. In the end I’m just hoping all that happens to increase my property value so I can make some money on my house. Plus, I would like to get us a Sports Time Radio one of the Bears on the show.

Dan the Man

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