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The Bears "unveiled" their Halas Hall upgrade last week to a wide-eyed and mouths-agape media all too happy to propagate the company line that the building is now a "game-changer." All I could do was wonder, again, why our schools can't get the same treatment. I could only come up with the same old answer: Capitalism is great for creating wealth, but awful for distributing it.
Now, I don't begrudge the players their luxuries. But it would be interesting to do a little analytical study to see if there is any correlation at all between an NFL team's facilities and their won-loss record. Assignment Desk, activate!
(For years, us Minnesotans were told, for example, that a new, taxpayer-funded ballpark would reap wins by the bucket. Instead, it has yielded the worst record in the majors.)
The best write-up on the "new" Halas Hall I saw, which also evoked schools, albeit in a very different way, came from the Chicago Architecture blog, which, purposely or not, put the abs in the absurd:
"The new HOK-designed building has more drama than a high school musical, with black carpets, brick walls, recessed linear lighting, and a black hallway lined with the illuminated numbers of retired Bears players arranged like markers on a gridiron."
"The lights come on as the players walk down the hall, accompanied by music, and arrive at a 46-foot video wall. There are about 175 video screens in the Halas Hall expansion. Your man cave weeps."
"The Bears' newest Halas Hall expansion is an apt illustration of just how far the franchise has come under McCaskey ownership - one of the last NFL teams to join the 20th century in terms of facilities is now leading the way in the 21st," Mark Potash writes for the Sun-Times
But wait: It was under McCaskey ownership that the team lagged behind - for decades! How they get credit now is beyond me. A more accurate appraisal might read: "It only took 100 years, but the McCaskeys have finally acceded to providing their players with the kind of facilities other teams have had for years."
(This is an example - extrapolate to all kinds of news coverage - of how a newspaper I would edit would read as opposed to the newspapers you read now; it would contain more truth.)
"The Bears gave the media a tour of the expansion Thursday morning and it looks like they thought of everything - more lounge areas; more conference rooms; two enclosed patios, a learning center for staff training. The Bears even installed a 4,200-square-foot rooftop garden area, where they will grow their own herbs.
"Safety Eddie Jackson gave it the ultimate compliment: 'I feel like they're giving Alabama a run for their money.'"
So maybe your lead is: "It's not quite Alabama, but the Bears are finally starting to catch up with the rest of the world when it comes to training facilities."
The Tribune's coverage was less breathless - I mean, they drained all the fun out of it, as the Trib is wont to do - but for the life of me I don't understand why any reporter (or editor) would feel compelled to include quotes like these in a work of journalism:
"Throughout the process our goal was not only to develop a more collaborative work flow across the building but to create an experience for everyone entering Halas Hall so that it becomes more than just a work space," team President and CEO Ted Phillips said.
Added general manager Ryan Pace: "This upgrade furthers the continued support from the McCaskey family and their commitment to attract, develop and retain the most talented roster possible both on and off the field."
If Phillips and Pace really said those things - like, out loud instead of words written by a PR staffer and attached to their names in a handout - I give them all the credit in the world for perfecting the AI of Human Press Release without having computer chips inserted into their brains.
To an earlier point, in 2015 Stack ranked every NFL team's weight room. Now, I know weight rooms don't equal the full facility, and I don't know what Stack's methodology was, but it was all I could find on short notice. And guess what? The Bears' weight room ranked 5th - and that was in the second of four consecutive years finishing last in their division. The New England Patriots' weight room - and the weight rooms of a boatload of teams better than the Bears that year - ranked 27th. The Patriots went 12-4 that year, though they did lose to the Broncos in the AFC Championship Game. (And the Broncos did have the 4th-best weight room in the league - one better than the Bears! - so there's that.)
Where does it end? Because, mark my words, in two or three years we'll start to hear rumbles about how the Bears need to update Halas Hall. Everyone else is doing it! It doesn't end, because there is no limit to the amenities that can be offered. And who ultimately pays for it? Fans. Because that's how capitalism creates wealth and distributes it.
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