The kids learned a new word: D. Rose. Whatever indifference my kids showed to televised basketball is, after the last three minutes of Saturday’s Bulls playoff opener, a fever. And the only prescription is more red towel.
It’s the kids’ first game thanks to their Uncle, who coaches basketball and got tickets for his sons’ birthdays, and it’s the first Bulls game I’ve been to since the Jordan era. It got me to thinking that Chicago’s major professional sports teams are in the midst of a pretty good run.
The 2010 Stanley Cup Champions have a pair of young forwards who should keep the Hawks in contention for years to come; the 2005 World Series Champs are consistent hopefuls; the Bulls, after posting the league’s best record with the league’s most explosive player, may be poised for another dynasty; even the Lovie Smith-era Bears have exceeded expectations by winning the division three times in the last six years, though Lovie won’t escape scrutiny until he wins the big one. The black hole is the Cubbyhole but c’mon, after 102 years what hasn’t been said?
We should enjoy this unusual winningness while we got it and let the kids sample this rare flavor. The following is a rating of the kid-friendliness of major pro sports Chicago homes. Winningness is too fleeting, so the following ranking is based on cost, accessibility, atmosphere and spectacle.
1. WHITE SOX at THE CELL: As a Cubs fan this is hard to admit: the Sox not only have a better team but a friendlier park. Never mind that aesthetically it’s only slightly better than a shattered bat in the eye. Not only are there batting cages and a pitching area for kids, but the layout is such that you can stretch the little ones’ antsy legs with a walk around the entire park and not miss much of the game. Tickets are easy to get, they’re not expensive, and the Cell is right off the Dan Ryan and the CTA.
Toddler factor: kids shorter than the turnstile arm (36”) are welcome without a ticket.
2. The BULLS at the MADHOUSE on MADISON: I was going to list this as #1 but I have to account for the influence of Saturday. There wasn’t much to cheer for in the first two hours and we were crammed into the nosebleeds, seven rows from the roof, which used to be cool in the old Stadium with those huge metal panels you could pound on. My boy didn’t want to look down at the floor, saying, “I don’t want to fall,” but I think he was mezmerized by the largest television he’s ever seen: the Jumbotron. With that and the flying Benny the Bull and the canon-shot promotions there was spectacle enough that the kids didn’t get squirmy till the fourth quarter. D. Rose took it from there. Nested between the highways, it’s easy to get in and out of, it’s easy to negotiate inside, and it will never get rained out.
Toddler factor: kids shorter than 36” get in without a ticket.
3. CUBS at Wrigley: The best thing about Wrigley is its historic status. The ivy, the obstructed views, the bleachers (as a sight, not a seat), the pee troughs, the place is filled with memories and legends. I believe the Cubs will never win a World Series until Wrigley is blown up and rebuilt (they’d have a better chance even if it was just blown up). Regardless, the place isn’t easy to bring kids to, unless you live on the northside. Taking public, which is a necessity, can add an hour each way to the excursion. You gotta teach the kids to keep score to keep them engaged and that’s tough when they can’t read.
Toddler factor: “Fans age 2 and under may be admitted to Cubs games without an admission ticket. However, they must sit in the lap of an accompanying adult.”
4. BLACKHAWKS at the MADHOUSE: The only reason I can’t say put the Blackhawks at #3 is because I’ve never taken a kid to a Hawks game. I remember in my youth getting showered with beer and profanity at Hawks-Wings games, which I loved. I have no idea how it is now but if anyone’s spilling beer on my kid I want it to be me.
Toddler factor: It’s the United Center so it’s the same as the Bulls
5. BEARS at Soldier Field: Eight days a year, football fans bare their gladiator hearts and brave the extreme elements of Soldier Field to scream and chant, debone meat with their teeth, and do stupid shit in the name of feral masculinity. What makes a Bears game such a great convocation of manhood is exactly what makes it terrible for kids. Unless you’re rich. Which puts all five of the major pro sports teams on a relative par called private boxes.
Toddler factor: This is no place for children.