You don't have to wait until the fall (and the end of the current NFL lockout) to see professional football in Chicago. Not when the city has a pair of professional football teams in the midst of strong seasons. The Chicago Rush and the Chicago Slaughter can keep you fixated on live professional football through the middle of the summer with seasons that extend into June and July, and here are five reasons why you should check them out:
Cheap tickets: Taking your whole family to see the Rush and the Slaughter won't cost you a month's rent or mortgage payment like Bears tickets do. Indoor pro football, on the other hand, will leave you some money for a nice dinner out afterward. Ticket prices for the Rush, which is co-owned by "Da Coach" himself, Mike Ditka, and plays in the Arena Football League, start at $10; tix for the Slaughter, which plays in the Indoor Football League, start at $8.
Smile-inducing names: Yeah, there are the Bears and Broncos, Colts and Cardinals and an assortment of other animals in the NFL, but the team names in the AFL and IFL are much more idiosyncratic. The Chicago Slaughter, for instance, opened up the 2011 IFL season against the Omaha Beef. The Slaughter versus the Beef? Sounds like something straight out of the South Side Stock Yards. As for the Rush, their last home game victory came against a team from New Orleans. The name? The New Orleans VooDoo.
Comfortable temps: You won't have to worry about the mobility of your fingers while watching the Rush and Slaughter, not like you do under five layers of sweatshirts at Soldier Field. Both play in climate-controlled, Metra-accessible arenas; the Chicago Rush make their game-day tackles at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont while the Chicago Slaughter run their weekend routes at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.
Mounds of points: The short length of the field -- 50 yards -- can mean a ton of field goals, touchdowns, and in true arena style, drop kick field goals. Point totals often look more like the scoreboard at basketball games, rocketing into the 60s and 70s. The other reason for the electrifying action can be attributed to the players and their athleticism. Several indoor football players harbor bunches of talent, with many coming from the NFL or, like quarterback Kurt Warner and Bears' wide receiver Rashied Davis, going from Arena ball to the NFL.
Intimate views: Intimate may not be the most common adjective to describe football, but that's the kind of feeling you'll get when you watch the Rush and the Slaughter play. The field barriers are so close to the players that, at times, you could literally reach out and touch them as they run past (though, for safety reasons, that's obviously not recommended). With around 5,000 to 10,000 fans in attendance for each game, there are enough people to have vibrant crowd noise while still being able to capture a great view and feel thoroughly close to what's happening on the turf.
Photo Courtesy of Graham Hill, Chicago Slaughter