Except for its saloons, the Windy City will be closed Sunday in honor of the Super Bowl.
The NFL championship showdown between the Chicago Bears and the New England Patriots is the biggest disruption to life in the nation's third largest city since the great blizzard of 1967. Or maybe the Great Fire of 1871.
Just about everything in Chicago will grind to a halt at the 4 p.m. CST kickoff in the Louisiana Superdome. Shops, department stores and entire shopping centers are closing up tight. Concerts, plays, college sporting events and a law school commencement ceremony have been rescheduled.
Even synagogues are affected. Rabbis are busy making certain that they will have the 10 men they need to convene the sundown service. Dusk will arrive somewhere near the end of the first or the beginning of the second quarter--a time when loyal Bear fans expect the Monsters of the Midway to be ahead by a mere two or three touchdowns.
"Rabbis have been out asking people in advance to make commitments to be at services to be sure they would have (the required 10 men) for a service," said Mordecai Simon, executive vice president of the Chicago Board of Rabbis.
For Soldier Field veterans, die-hards who believe that the only good football game is one suffered in freezing cold and wind, the city has made special accommodations.
A 20-foot-by-30-foot television screen has been set up across from City Hall and next to the giant Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza--renamed Bears Plaza this week. The city has installed grandstands facing the TV screen and plans to sell stadium-style hot dogs and hot chocolate. A Dixieland band will play at half time.
So many people are expected for this exercise in winter endurance that 50 policemen have been assigned to help control the crowds.
And so many people are expected not to show up other places.
Calling Time Out
"We're calling 'time out' for the Bears," said Betty Bryant, marketing director of the 220-store Woodfield Mall. "We figured if we stayed open we wouldn't do much business and we'd have disgruntled employees."
"This is a big, big event in Chicago," said Paul Costello, spokesman for Marshall Fields, the city's biggest retailer. "This is the event of the year. Shopping after 4 (p.m.) will be like walking in the middle of the Mojave Desert," he said, adding that all 17 stores will close just before kickoff.
John Marshall Law School moved its graduation ceremony to early afternoon after the entire 160-member class of would-be lawyers petitioned--appropriately--for a change, said Helen Thatcher, associate dean. The commencement speaker, former U.S. Solicitor General Rex E. Lee, "was kind enough to speak earlier so commencement would end before the kickoff," she added.
Fashion Show Canceled
A fashion show planned for the elegant Pump Room restaurant was canceled by I. Magnin after the retailer "decided nobody would attend on the day of the Bears game," said Lynn Gehring, an assistant fashion director. "I'm psyched and I don't even know how the game is played."
The Remains Theatre, one of Chicago's many small off-Loop production houses, found itself with a different problem. "Essentially, actor Bill Petersen refused to miss the Super Bowl," said Josh Braun, the box office manager. "So we've canceled both Sunday performances. But frankly, there haven't been many calls for tickets anyway."
Little or no demand for tickets has forced many other theater, dance and musical performances to be either canceled or rescheduled. "When we only got requests for 11 tickets it seemed like we ought to cancel the show," said Gilda Moss, producer of "I Do! I Do!" at the suburban Pheasant Run Theatre. So they did, they did.
Sports Events Rescheduled
Northwestern University spent most of the week rearranging its sports schedules. First, a wrestling match with Michigan State University was moved to noon from 3 p.m. Then, it was reset for 11 a.m. so it would not interfere with a basketball game against the University of Minnesota that was originally set for mid-afternoon, then moved to 1 p.m. Got that?
Travel agent Michael A. Dorman reported several cancellations with "people telling me that they're not going to leave Chicago until after the Super Bowl."
Even air travel is feeling the Bears' grip on Chicagoans. "We've gotten a large number of calls from people who want to know if there's any way of carrying the game on their aircraft," said Chuck Novak, spokesman for United Airlines. "We've had people reschedule because we couldn't guarantee TV coverage on board."
Meanwhile, Bears mania is sweeping Chicago on the eve of the game.
Fight Song by Symphony
The staid Chicago Symphony shed some of its formality this week to close several performances with a highbrow version of the Bears' fight song--while wearing Bears hats and headbands in the style of quarterback Jim McMahon.
U.S. District Judge Prentice H. Marshall and the jury in his courtroom have been showing up for the corruption trial of a Cook County judge sporting "Go Bears Go" buttons.
And along with "The Star-Spangled Banner," Chicago's WMAQ-TV is signing off the air early each morning this weekend by playing the Windy City's new anthem--the Bears' recording called "Super Bowl Shuffle."