My husband Rick is, all in all, a good sport. He barely blinks when people call him by my father’s name, “Mr. Isaacson.” He knows to double the time I tell him I’ll be finished writing. And he hardly ever complains when he accompanies me to sporting events only to never actually attend the actual sporting event.
Today, he came with me to Bourbonnais and Bears training camp. And because, if you happen to read my blogs regularly (and, by the way, thank you so much for that) you already know how I feel about training camp, I will write this blog through Rick’s eyes.
Today, Rick’s eyes told him that most football players are jerks, only he used a worse word.
Fans obviously have a different experience than journalists do. Granted, I was working today, but while I was interviewing players, eating lunch in an air-conditioned cafeteria, writing in an air-conditioning press room and watching practice from along the sideline, Rick was sweating along with the thousands of other spectators, my son Alec and a few of his friends, behind the ropes.
(A quick disclaimer here to note that my husband, while possessing many manly traits, is not one of those men who relishes sweating with thousands of strangers.)
Still, all that was fine and he even managed to squeeze in a trip to Culver’s for one of their famous butterburgers (OK, tasty, but they’ve got to change the name). The part that had him complaining later was what he considered rude behavior by the players.
(Another disclaimer here to note that my husband, while perfectly secure in his own right, still has a bit of a problem every time an athlete of even superb ability turns down a multi-gajillion dollar contract to sign one for 10 bucks more. I’ve tried to explain the concept of fair market value to him but he doesn’t want to listen.)
The main objective today, besides eating butterburgers and watching the Bears run through drills from a vantage point in which he could only see quarterback Jay Cutler’s socks, was to help the boys get autographs.
He didn’t really even have to help, just mostly point them in the right direction and make sure they didn’t get trampled in the process.
His opinion is that this is a spectator-friendly event. Fans attend for free. There are interactive games for kids to play. Adequate parking. And there really is plenty of space to watch practice (I, personally, do not think he had to watch Jay Cutler’s socks and could have tried harder to improve his vantage point).
There is also lots of room to spread out along the ropes where players leave the field and try to collect autographs. The Bears even set up a special autograph area for kids 12-and-under, where players have to pass through to leave the field.
But in the 45 minutes Rick spent observing, only a handful (maybe five or six) of the 78 players on the field bothered – and this is a direct quote from Rick – “to pause long enough to smile, say ‘hi,’ wave or high-five, much less sign an autograph.”
Many ran past the kids. “Couldn’t they have just slapped hands or something while they ran past?” Rick suggested.
New Bears quarterback Jay Cutler sped by in his golf cart, though I don’t think he can technically be ripped for speeding since he was not driving.
“All the kids were fenced in this special area,” Rick said. “All they really wanted was to be acknowledged.”
If I didn’t think he would turn cranky, I might suggest to my husband that most probably expected more than an acknowledgement, but I agree that a passing wave would’ve been nice.
All that said, there were some very nice players, the names of whom did not surprise me. Tight end Dez Clark, who had his adorable little girls with him, still signed autographs for at least 20 minutes. Running back Kevin Jones took off his cleats and tossed them to two grateful kids (I’m assuming cleat side up as Rick did not mention any bloodshed). Alex Brown was terrific, giving Alec’s friend Joe the thrill of a lifetime when he handed him his sweaty, practice-used glove, complete with autograph (Joe does not have the same aversion to other people’s sweat as Rick does).
Joe also finagled an Adewale Ogunleye signature for their pal Jake. And third-string quarterback Brett Basanez spent considerable time signing autographs, among them for Alec and Zack, and perhaps introducing himself to the kids in the process.
In my opinion, roughly six percent of the team was not a bad turnout. But Rick is not buying it.
He may be a good sport, but he’s a tough customer.