CHICAGO – Eight-year-old Joseph Cholico never will forget how he felt after his first visit to Soldier Field to see the Bears.
“Not really happy,” Cholico said.
There you have it.
Leave it to the Chicago Park District and the Bears to fumble away what should have been a perfect night to connect with some of the team’s youngest fans. The Bears canceled their annual “Family Fest” practice with exactly one hour’s notice Friday because of poor field conditions.
Instead of taking the field at 7 p.m., the Bears were headed south on I-57 to return to training camp at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais. There, the Bears conducted an evening practice that was closed to the public and the news media.
Meanwhile, thousands of disappointed Bears fans prepared to head home.
The Bears offered full refunds for fans who bought tickets and paid for parking. They kept the grounds open for music and games and stuck with their plans to host a fireworks show at dusk.
But 8-year-old Flynn Maloney and his 6-year-old brother, Liam, didn’t don Bears jerseys so they could see fireworks. They came to see their favorite players, Matt Forte and Brian Urlacher.
Their father, Terry Maloney, shook his head at the fiasco. By the time the Bears decided to cancel practice, he and his sons had rode the Metra from Park Ridge to downtown and taken a cab to the stadium.
“I’m very disappointed, I can tell you that,” said Maloney, whose youngest son never had visited Soldier Field. “These guys are going with the flow, so I’m trying not to show my emotions.”
It’s a good thing that Maloney wasn’t around to hear Soldier Field general manager Tim LeFevour speak to reporters. Otherwise, he might have let a couple of choice words escape.
LeFevour blamed the bad field conditions on a recent heat wave and improper watering.
“We did not put enough water on this field,” LeFevour said.
“I’m not going to try and sugar-coat that in any way. And because of that, the seams opened up today.”
Just add water?
If only it were so simple.
Everyone involved with Friday’s ordeal should be embarrassed.
Usually, it takes until November or so for Soldier Field’s surface to become a full-blown joke. This year, the Chicago Park District perfected an unplayable field before the first preseason game.
That game, by the way, is in seven days, when the Buffalo Bills are scheduled to visit.
Good luck with that.
Bears safety Chris Harris tried to show a sense of humor after the forgettable night.
“Hey maybe we can hold our 1st preseason game at Olivet Nazarene University. I bet that would really throw the #Bills off,” Harris wrote on his Twitter page.
Other teammates were not in the mood to laugh
“Field conditions this bad this early in the season is inexcusable,” Bears kicker Robbie Gould wrote on his Twitter page. “This is becoming a reoccurring problem and needs [to be] addressed.”
It’s not the players’ fault that their field is a laughingstock. And it wasn’t their choice to head to ONU immediately instead of staying around to sign autographs as an olive branch to fans.
But that’s tough to explain to a kid who waited all week for a chance to see his favorite team.
Bob Cholico, the uncle of 8-year-old Joseph, couldn’t say he was 100 percent surprised.
“Stuff like this happens quite a bit with the Bears, the Cubs, …” Cholico said, trailing off. “It’s kind of the Chicago way. I hate to say it, but we’re kind of known for things like this, don’t you think?”