Today a Chicago Sun Times online column commended Mayor Daley's decision to not support having a statue of Walter Payton at Soldier Field. I say this has more to do with political posturing than it does a credible basis to keep the icon of the Bears away from Soldier Field.
The columnist noted that, "Too often, veterans feel they are forgotten by their country. Too often they are right. Let's not give them another reason to feel that way again." There are a few problems with this. 1st the reason veterans feel forgotten is Politicians have historicaly failed to keep their promises to them; rather, using them only for political gain. 2nd, a feeling of being forgotten has far more to do with general apathy of people. An issue that the existence of a statue or no statue will not decide. We have Memorial day and Veteran's day, and there are some local events, but as a whole it has become just a day people use as a vacation.
The fact is Soldier's Field is still a sport's venue. It is the home of the Chicago Bears. Placing a statue on the premises will not be an insult to veterans. The memorials that line the mall in Washington DC are not disrespected because there are vendors on every corner, or people throwing frisbees, or using the trail to jog etc... Now I am not saying one should but the Payton figure in same area as the memorials in Soldier Field, but placing it among the colonnades or as you enter the stadium would be appropriate.
Sweetness poured out his soul, sweat, and blood on this field, and it is appropriate that he be recognized at the same place he gave his all. Something he gave not only to his teams, and his fans, but to the community. A man who did not just provide lip service, but advocated on behalf of kids and those in needs to include a charity that donates toys.
Many may recall the story of how when he received a request for an autographed photo for a terminally ill child. He didn't mail it; rather, he showed up at their door, met with the boy, and gave him an autographed ball. The child lost the battle with his disease, as Walter would later lose a similar battle. But this child knew that the man named sweetness cared, and gave a part of himself. Fitting, the boy's family had that football in the casket he was buried in.
Walter's fixture will not soil the memory of veterans or the spirit of soldier field. Rather it is the very essence of it. The mayor was correct when he said "after all it is called soldier field" for a reason, unfortunately he only looked at one word. The fact is the 2nd word is "field" and this fact should not be ignored. It is where sweetness gave it all and now we should allow something to be given back.
How about invititing veterans or active duty members on the day the statue is revealed. Or to allow one of them (instead of a political figure) to be the one to cut the ribbon or pour the concrete. Allow it to become a fundraiser to support veterans.
In the end, #34 (not 33 Mayor Daley- for those who don't recall his lapse as a commissioner when the city named Nov 6th to Sweetness's memory). He is the spirit and soul of Chicago and that memory should be at Soldier Field.