For me, this decade has been the decade of tailgating before Bears games. And as we all know, this decade is quickly coming to a close. I’ll never figure out how fast the last 10 years have gone by.
The older I get, honestly the less tailgating I can handle. It was a ghastly thought for me a few years ago to think about missing tailgating before any Bears game. Hell, in 2002 we roadtripped to Champaign every weekend to start the party no later than 7 a.m.
When we started seriously tailgating around Soldier Field in the late 1990′s, the “official” lots were off limits as always to us because of the Bears’ unfair lottery system. So we found a better place to tailgate-the best actually-at the Adler Planetarium. For $25 we would park along the lake with grass behind us and plenty of bathrooms close. But nothing so good could possibly last. In 2006, the price at the Planetarium was jacked to over $50 (I believe it is now $100 for a car to park at the Planetarium for a Bears game) so we moved to the 31st street lot south of McCormick Place.
From 2006-2008 the 31st lot was rather like the wild west. One could park whenever they wanted, even 4 a.m. I believe, and there was no security patrolling, telling people where to park or to take canopies down. We would arrive before 7 a.m., set up along the grassy area by the train tracks, and again have all the amenities we needed.
Beginning in 2009, the scuttlebutt has been that the Bears and NFL really, truly have to be trying to kill tailgating by making it just too much of a hassle. This was elaborated on in the USA Today yesterday in their article “NFL vs Unruly Fans”. In it they explain that the NFL is urging teams not to open parking lots until 3 1/2 hours before the game. It mentions that the Bears have balked because what this would do to Chicago traffic. Amazing; I’m sure the Bears would cut it to 2 hours if they had their way.
So we continue to tailgate at 31st street this year, but they “someone” (who?) brought in people to tell drivers exactly where they have to park and to patrol the lot to nitpick about people’s setups. Sounds like by the time they really crack down and finish off people that are having fun as I was 10 years ago, I’ll be too old to notice.