Something for Everyone

Just about anything and everything Bears related was on display at the 9th annual Fan Convention, held at the downtown Hilton and Towers this weekend. While there were deals to be had on not so hot items such as Kordell Stewart, Cade McNown and Anthony Thomas jerseys. Vendors also carried pricey vintage and current signed photos, replica and game worn jerseys, as well as tailgating supplies for the most dedicated fan.

Brothers Christian and Anthony Deutsch, ages 10 and 11 from Shabbona stood in the checkout line at the official souvenir shop laboriously counting out tightly folded dollar bills in order to purchase their 'finds'. The boys had been saving for months for Bears merchandise, and completed their transactions under the approving eye of their mother, Kathy.

Later on in the day, the family planned to visit the video arcade where they would have the opportunity to go against some of their football heroes.

"The players are really nice to the children," Kathy Deutsch said. "They joke around with them and treat them as equals. It gives the boys an opportunity to find out that football players are people just like you or me, but of course with better athletic skills."

10-year-old Alex Hitney stood in one of the seemingly endless lines that snaked around the convention's basement hoping to get a photo op with one of the members of the roster.

"I don't really care who it is," Alex said. "The picture would be pretty neat to put on my wall no matter which player it is."

Alex and his father Kevin have attended the convention for the past two years but have yet to figure out how to speed up the waiting process.

"It gets a little difficult at times," Kevin said "but I know it means a lot to Alex so here we are."

The Hitneys had just completed another of the convention's star attractions, a digital imaging photo op where fans cans stand in front of a green screen, have their photo taken, then be inserted digitally into a sideline scene.

"This is for my office," Kevin said," the image sure looks real to me. As far as I can tell, I'm right down there with the starting lineup waiting to go on the field."

Hitney looked somewhat surprised when he spotted Michael McCaskey as the Bears executive strolled through the vendor area Grabbing his camera, Hitney recorded the moment and planned to add that image to his convention memorabilia as well.

In fan sessions, panels of media members and both current players gave presentations then answered questions from members of the audience.

One of the most popular seminars featured Roberto Garza, Kyle Orton, Glen Kozlowski, and Shaun Gayle. The past and current players gave their impressions of the 2005 season, 'a good stepping stone to next year's Super Bowl' according to Glen Kozlowski, and offered thoughts on 2006 which Garza sees as "OL Big Time'.

Garza also explained why December 2 is designated as Roberto Garza Day in tiny (population 1700) Rio Hondo, Texas, and Kyle Orton offered his perspective on his unexpectedly productive rookie year.

Not surprisingly, Orton's views got the most fan reaction, with most in attendance loudly voicing their support for the now backup QB.

One of the most popular sessions was delayed when Steve "Mongo'' McMichael, Ronnie Bull, Bob Kilcullen, Emery Moorehead all got stuck in a freight elevator that stalled underneath the speaker's entrance.

"Just having the chance to see them when they get out of there should be entertainment enough" Tom Thayer quipped while trying to pacify the somewhat restless crowd.

Fan Daniel Lazzar of Schaumburg felt that the entire convention was time well spent, even though it often entailed unavoidable delays.

"This is something I look forward to all year," Lazzar said. "Waiting for this or that isn't going to kill me. I've been coming here or a while now and it's always enjoyable. It's a real celebration for fans of all ages and backgrounds. My only hope is that this time next year, we'll be celebrating the Super Bowl instead of a season that almost got there."

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