Down in front

I have nothing against cornfields, per se. I would maybe even like them if corn on the cob was less expensive this summer. But I don’t especially like working amongst them as I have this past week at the Chicago Bears training camp.

Training camp, spring training, Draft Day. To many sports fans and sportswriters, this is fabulous, compelling stuff. I would sooner spend the day scrubbing floors.

There is a reason they do not sell tickets to attend these events, though if they did, I am sure people would shell out the cash no matter the price. More than 11,000 people showed up the same day I did on the campus of Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., most of whom at one point or another yelled at me that I was in their line of sight as I paced along the sidelines waiting for it to be over.

After telling one man – in my nice voice with no swear words – that he didn’t have to scream at me, I surrendered to the accepted etiquette and took a knee.

I looked around to see if anyone else was excruciatingly uncomfortable and it was hard to detect. I tried sitting but was soon reminded that was not allowed. The reason they make you take a knee on the sideline of a football practice is so you will not get killed by a runaway tight end, the logic being that if you’re standing or kneeling, you can easily jump out of the way and avoid getting run over.

I tried to assure the Bears official that I could not possibly avoid on oncoming rush from a kneeling position any more than I could from a sitting one, and I work out regularly (see: yesterday’s blog). But they weren’t really interested in discussing  the matter.

It briefly brought back memories of one of the first major-league baseball games I ever covered when I innocently hooked a finger in the netting of the cage as I watched batting practice.

“Do you like that finger?” a coach asked me.

“Excuse me,” I responded cleverly.

“If you want to keep it, you might want to unhook it from there,” he said.

I barely had time to thank him when a foul tip came speeding back into the net at precisely the same place my severed finger would have been.

I realize that when I cop to things like this, or admit to being bored watching football drills, that I risk the chance of sounding like a dumb girl who has no business covering sports for a living if I can’t appreciate the beauty of a tackling dummy.

But I do not think this is a gender thing. I suspect many of those taking a knee around me to be faking their enthusiasm, that they are really not having fun going down the 76-man roster and counting each player on the field to see who may be missing, and that their knees hurt just as much as mine do.

I suspect they are also bored on Draft Day watching a clock tick down on a television screen for two days straight, and are, like me, tempted to switch channels to a good movie, but will never admit it.

If you spend more than seven minutes at home doing this, I simply have nothing to say to you.

And to those thousands of people in Bourbonnais who arrive hours early in order to situate your lawn chairs to just the right angle in front of the tackling dummies?

I’m taking a knee. Shut up already.

2 Responses to “Down in front”

  1. greg

    Oh, you are right. There’s nothing more boring than a football practice. The best thing a coach can do for the media is close practice. Heaven forbid you repeat that to an editor though. Practice is sooo boring; it’s a cure for insomnia.

  2. Frank

    Very Well Put Melissa. The interest in Football and yes in this case the Bears shows even though Baseball is strong in Chicago, Football is way more popular. You are not dumb by any means. Many of us guys do not like seeing the practice. Now if we were getting paid to work as coaches, pick the talent, that would be different. I think many go because they know the players are close to the field, a chance for getting autographs or maybe get a picture taken with their favorites is more like it. When I had season tickets to the Bears years ago, I gave the pre-season tickets away. I wanted the regular season. The practice was too boring. Many felt the way I did attending the games.



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