Oh say can you see... We spent last night with the Bears. It was one of those nights where you have to constantly look at your pals and make sure you are not dreaming, trying to remember every moment. To start with, we arrived in two gigantic stretch limos, and made our way through every level of security. When we stopped we were in the parking lot where the players' buses park, as close to the stadium as you can get. From there we met up with Dennis' friend from the Bears camp who had set the whole thing up (I am writing at the gate in the Atlanta Airport and Dennis is in Chicago, so I will have to ask him later what this man's name is), and he led us through more security to the field where we just missed being on WLS-TV with Mark Giangrecco during his pre-game drop-in, then to out position on the field for the sound-check. I brought along my new Taylor acoustic and we took our places in front of the mics, sang The National Anthem a couple of times to the stadium, empty of fans but teaming with the infrastructural network of on-camera, off-camera and others associated with Monday Night Football. Let me tell you, this production made our little Amphitheater/Arena production look like a busking set-up. Frank Gifford and all the big name announcers were on their marks doing their pre-game stuff. All finished, we made our way to the other end zone, en route to our own private sky-box, courtesy of The Bears. As we neared the side-lines we heard a band playing what turned out to be "Bend Me Shape Me", Gary's smash hit with THE AMERICAN BREED. What a coincidence! We were high-fiving and we arrived at the bandstand just as they finished and I yelled, "He wrote and sang that song!" I think they must have thought I was nuts or something... Before we knew it we were back on the field, waiting for the cue to sing. Jeanne had gotten the okay to go around in front of us to shoot the digital photos (see Gallery) and while we waited, the Bears suddenly came charging towards us, running around Jeanne on both sides, toward the other end of the field. You should have seen her face go white as a sheet! We got our cue, and sang our butts of. Fireworks actually went off during the "And the rockets red glare" part, sending the crowd into hysterics. With the long delay and considering how old and outdated the sound system is there, we still managed to pull of an impressive "Star Spangled Banner". We kept it traditional, no scatting. Once we finished singing the anthem, we spent the entire game on the side lines, just next to owner, McCaskey and the Bears bench. Turned out their top photographer used to come see me when MS Funk used to play Haymaker's in Palatine many moons ago, so we had yet another friend there to hang with. Walter Payton was fascinated with the digital camera and at one time I thought he was going to run off with it. He finally gave it back. Good thing, I would have hated to have to hurt him... Dennis was probably the most awed by the experience. He told me a story about how he had played Soldiers Field when he was 10 years old. It was on Venetian Night. He and 49 other accordion players played The National Anthem and everyone in the stands had sparklers. He has been a Bears fan since he was a little boy, and to stand in the middle of the playing field and sing for them just blew his mind. JY was the most demonstrative. He was whooping it up something good from before the game at the WGN booth (he predicted Bears by 2 touch downs) and all through the game on the field. He was a riot to behold... You should have been there!
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