Extreme Tailgating for Bears Fans

Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest days of the year for house parties in this country, but some Bears fans are taking it to a new level down in Florida. Bear Report Correspondent Beth Gorr spent some time with a few of them and found out why restaurant managers all over the Sunshine State are shuttering with fear.

If you're heading down to Miami but still without tickets for the Big Game, there are still a variety of Bears fan-friendly ways to spend the day with others who will be wearing blue and orange. Just ask 'Bears Jimmy,' aka Jim Bradley, of Alsip, who along with Dennis Lindley, is the force behind a sizable tailgate event in C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines.

"I've been doing tailgates near Soldier Field for years,"Bradley says. "That's how I met Dennis. It seems that we've been friends forever. When the Bears were able to go to the Super Bowl, my first thought was, 'Why not bring the party south?' It turns out that Dennis had the same thought, and here we are."

Bradley's pregame events have long been known for their boisterous atmosphere. Even more famous is Bradley's weekly speech to rally the assembled throng.

"It gets us going. Sometimes I get so worked up that the entire parking lot is shouting by the time I'm done," Bradley says. "We're all yelling 'Let's Go, Bears!' at the top of our lungs. Once the game begins, we just move the celebration inside Soldier Field.

Bradley, who has been tailgating since 1999, was not fortunate enough to secure tickets for the Super Bowl this weekend, but he figures quite a few of the Bears' faithful will be in a similar situation.

"There's no point in bemoaning our fate when we can have a good time and party like we usually do," Bradley says. "We'll be a little further from the stadium, but at least we'll be there in spirit."

Dennis Lindley of Aurora, Bradley's longtime friend and fellow tailgater, also plans to participate in this Sunday's pregame festivities. The viability of his event hinged on an internet connection and considerable luck.

"When I was trying to find a spot for our party, I couldn't get anything definite from this far away," Lindley says. "Everybody I contacted down there said I had to apply for the permit in person. I was about to give up until I found Corey Radke on an internet message board. He's a transplanted Chicagoan who went all out to help put this thing together."

Radke, a computer-savvy psychology student at Florida International University, founded a website, BearDownInMiami.com, to help Bears fans on the road find party locations.

"He even went to the park and put a deposit with his own money to secure our site," Lindley says. "That was above and beyond the call of duty."

Fans with tickets are welcome to tailgate before the game then head over to the stadium. Fans without tickets to the game will either be able to stay in the park and watch on portable televisions or head to one of the nearby restaurants that will feature an all-Bears fan atmosphere.

"Capones in Hollywood, Florida is where I'll be going," Bradley says. "At first they wouldn't take my reservation, but then the manager called me back. It started with just 50 or so in the main dining room. It's at 170 now. We'll have a tent, the bar, and [standing room only] space. Fat Lou's in Hallandale Beach is also hosting a number of Chicago fans."

Lindley expects several hundred at the park in Pembroke Pines, where he will remain on site throughout the day.

"It's too late now for advance reservations," he says, "but people are certainly welcome to just show up. We're all Bears fans. Just one big happy family celebrating a big weekend."

Are Lindley and Bradley worried that the Bears faithful might become perhaps a little too enthusiastic as the game progresses and the Bears pile up the points?

"No way," Lindley says. "After all, we're guests. These people are doing us a favor just by allowing us to have our event here. Everybody will be on their best behavior. Jim and I, as well as everybody else who will attend, will make sure of that."

But did the hosts realize the extent of Bears fever?

"Probably not initially," Bradley says. "I think the establishments I first spoke to thought I was talking about bringing maybe 20 or 30 fans. So I suspect that perhaps they didn't fully comprehend what they were getting into. The fact that we are talking about numbers in the hundreds now might be somewhat of a surprise. Our goal is to party with respect. They are doing us a huge favor. We are thrilled to have this opportunity, and we'd like to thank everybody in Florida who has helped make this a reality."

Beth Gorr is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry.

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