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Chicago September 2017 – Steelers @ Bears

When the schedule works out, I try to catch at least one Steelers game each football season. In choosing options for attending Steelers games for 2017, the game at Chicago stood out to me for a few reasons:

  • I’d never been to Soldier Field, one of the more historic stadiums
  • One of my high school classmates lived there and was also a Steelers fan
  •  A late September game in Chicago would not be too hot or too cold
  • It should be a great opportunity to see a Steelers victory
    Quick foreshadowing note: Only half of the above went as planned.

The weekend began with an early morning flight to Chicago because of a Friday night concert in Texas and there were game related events that I wanted to attend on Saturday. I also wanted to try to see at least a couple of things beyond game related activities.

After a smooth flight into O’Hare Airport, I caught a taxi to my hotel. While I prefer Uber, I’ve found it easier to take a cab from most airports and Uber to the airport. For some reason I’ve never paid much attention to the messaging in taxi cabs, but it is a good idea to have some information in case you forget something in the cab.

First things first. I had to unpack my luggage. Okay, so I did pack more than this, but I almost did forget to pack pants!

From my hotel room I can see Lake Michigan and Navy Pier.

A Steelers fan event was in a couple of hours and this was where I’m meeting my high school classmate who took the train in from the suburbs for the game. So after a quick change for the event, I wanted to make it to Navy Pier beforehand.

So remember me mentioning my thoughts on the weather late September? Instead of the cool weather I was expecting, the temps were in the mid-90s. This was 20-25 degrees warmer than the last 10 years at this time of the year. (Yes, I checked). This made it a little uncomfortable in a dark jersey and cowboy hat but I wouldn’t be out in the sun for too long.

Skyline from Navy Pier.

Even though Chicago is on Lake Michigan, for some reason I never imagined seeing jet skis with Chicago until I saw this.

When I took this photo, I thought the tall building in the background was the former Sears Tower (Officially the Willis Tower). I discovered my mistake later in the evening when I was on the other side of town looking at the correct building. This building was known as the John Hancock Center until February 2018 (Currently unnamed).

Nice Ride! I looked up the name of this yacht later and you can book lunch or dinner excursions on this vessel.

I’m “allergic” to Ferris wheels, but it looks great from down here!

It was time to head to the fan event, an official Steelers Nation event by Steelers Nation Unite at the home of the Chicago Steelers Fan Club. I thought I could make the walk from Navy Pier in time, but I took a wrong turn along the way and ended up jumping in a cab about halfway there in order to meet my friend in time. When I arrived, there was already a line of Steelers fans waiting to enter.

The doors finally opened and we filed in to find a good spot to settle in. Many tables were reserved for VIPs.

(Note for non-Steelers fans, Kevin Colbert is the team’s general manager.)

We found a spot to settle in upstairs. The official event did not start for a bit so my classmate and I spent some time catching up, along with his wife.

Yes, Chicago is also Steelers Country!

“Mrs. Coach Ditka” ended up at the wrong fan event. As you can see, she is voicing her frustration.

Among the VIPs in attendance were former Steelers players. Former center Dermontti Dawson was one of the players. He spent a lot of time speaking with fans, but I did not get a chance to meet him.

I discovered that I knew one of the VIPs. He runs the Steelers Mexico Fan Club based in Monterrey, Mexico. I originally met Omar in 2011 when his group chartered six buses to Dallas to see the Steelers play in Super Bowl XLV. I’ll touch more on that in another post, but it was good to see Omar again.

The official fan event was tied to the live Steelers weekly pregame broadcast, so we learned that we would be part of the online broadcast.

I took a few seconds of video at the beginning of the broadcast, which you can see below. Later in the evening, I saw messages from friends who told me they could see my cowboy hat in the broadcast behind another fan’s waving Terrible Towel.

After the broadcast there was an area set aside for pictures

Former Steelers receiver and Super Bowl XLII MVP Santonio Holmes even asked me to take a picture with him and his terrible towel. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, but I understand if you don’t believe it went down that way!

This was not a planned stop, but it was neat to see the Chicago Theater. Hopefully, on a future trip, I can see a show.

Before my trip a friend of mine told me about the view from the rooftop bar in Chicago Virgin Hotel, so we decided to check it out. My friend was right. It was a great view. Remember my earlier mistake about the Hancock Building? This was when I realized it. My classmate mentioned this was the former Sears Tower and I realized this could not be the same building from where we were located.

I should have shut it down for the evening after getting back to the hotel but the activity in the hotel bar caught my attention. After surviving listening to a lady explain to half of the bar that a president can fire a city mayor, I did strike up more intelligent conversation with people from Chicago, Fargo and Salt Lake City. My new friend from Salt Lake was missing when we took this photo, but I’ve stayed in touch with all of them.

For game day, we wanted to catch pre-game warmups so we headed to the stadium early. We entered on the side of the stadium near the Field Museum so I did not get to see the outside of the stadium the way I hoped to view it. While the stadium was built in 1924, it was renovated
in 2002, with much of the renovation coming on the interior of the structure. In this picture, you can see the old and new.

These seats used to be part of the original stadium, but they are now part of the outer concourse. The renovations reduced seating capacity.

We arrived early enough to sneak a picture in the lower level before heading to our nosebleed seats. I’m trying my best to hide it in this picture, but yes, it was still hot.

I got a chuckle from the game programs, which had pronunciation guides for each team roster to help with some of the more challenging names.

Pregame warmups. Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster is on the 40 yard line.

The view from my nosebleed seats. This picture was taken in the first quarter, before I realized this was NOT going to be the cake walk game I was expecting.

After two first quarter turnovers, the Steelers spent the remainder of the game playing catchup. While eventually taking the game to overtime, the Steelers never touched the ball in extra time. I only took the picture below because you can see Lake Michigan in the background.

After the game, it was pretty quiet walking back to our hotel but my classmate pointed this fountain out to me while walking past Grant Park. If you ever watched an episode of Married
with Children, this is the fountain you see in the intro. This show has a connection to the
Steelers. Actor Ed O’Neill, who plays character Al Bundy (who once “scored 4 touchdowns in a single game!” on the show), was briefly a part of the Steelers in the late 60s, as an undrafted free agent during training camp.

Besides being completely wrong on the weather forecast and the outcome of the game, I had an otherwise great short trip to Chicago. I look forward to returning soon!

Have you been to a sporting event in Chicago?

The Calvin Chronicles

Calvin enjoys photography, travel, history, and takes every opportunity to combine all three passions. After an early taste of international travel as a military “brat”, a new passport for work travel reignited the international travel bug. As a visual journalist who believes that opinions are shaped by life experiences, he strives to give his audience a front-row seat to his adventures from around the world and around the block.

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