- Brett Pauly
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Which team would you most like to witness early in the NFL postseason?
We'd like to see either of the two best squads going now the Chargers or the Bears.
Las Vegas oddsmakers agree, pinning San Diego and its high-octane, LaDainian Tomlinson-fueled offense as the favorites, at 5-2 odds, to win Super Bowl XLI, Feb. 4, in Miami.
Chicago and its unrelenting defense led by linebacker Brian Urlacher are picked to have the second-best chance of winning at all, with 7-2 odds.
Perhaps with modern technology you eventually could be two places at once, but since you can't for the Divisional Playoffs, we present a choice here at Power Weekend: Chicago or San Diego.
Instead of us making the decision for you, we'll let the recommendations of a couple of hometown journalists be your guide.
Chicago Tribune columnist Phil Rosenthal and San Diego Union-Tribune assistant Sports editor Mike Rosenthal (no relation) will serve up their respective towns on a travel platter from which you can pick and chose.
We'll start off in the Windy City of Chicago and move on to San Diego, known biasedly enough as "America's Finest City."
Chicago: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight | Purchase Bears tickets
SUNDAY, JAN. 14
Seahawks at Bears, noon CT
Soldier Field (est. 1924)
OK, so San Diego may win the weather battle, with average January temperatures in the high 50s, while Chicagoans chill out in the low 20s.
But warmth doesn't necessarily mean it's better for football, according to Chicago native Phil Rosenthal, the Chicago Tribune media columnist and a Bears season-ticket holder.
"If part of football is playing in the elements, then there is a reason they call it Bear weather," he said. "It's cold and brutal, but it's what football is all about; the great games in football have been played in bad weather. Bundle up, by all means.
"They chose, for reasons perhaps only known to them, not to put a dome on this stadium (Soldier Field), and I think with games in January in mind."
But you'll definitely need place close to the field to warm up, especially since the outside of the stadium isn't much to look at. ("We have one of the uglier fields," Rosenthal said. "It looks like a UFO was dropped into a stadium.")
The stadium is off by itself along Lake Michigan, but there are three neat places to visit nearby: Adler Planetarium (1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, Web site) for gazing at the stars; The Field Museum (1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Web site) for a dose of natural history; and Shedd Aquarium (1200 S. Lake Shore Drive, Web site), for dolphins and fish.
If you've never been to Chicago, you might consider going to the top of the tallest building in North America, the Sears Tower (233 S. Wacker Drive, Web site). But Rosenthal says a better bet is the top of the Hancock Center (875 N. Michigan Ave.), which has a tony restaurant and bar, The Signature Room, on the 95th floor. The view is stunning and it definitely will help make the price of the meal a little easier to swallow.
Other restaurants of note: Rosebud (55 E. Superior St.) for Italian; for ribs try Twin Anchors (1655 N. Sedgwick St., Web site), which was favored by Frank Sinatra; and sports fans will feel right at home at Carson's Ribs (5970 N. Ridge Ave.). "It's a meat and potatoes town, but we have really good seafood, too," Rosenthal said; he recommends Joe's Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab (60 E. Grand Ave., Web site) and, for sushi, NoMI in the Park Hyatt Hotel (800 N. Michigan Ave., Web site).
Chicago seems to be a town of incredible works of sculpture, so take your pick:
The Art Institute (111 S. Michigan Ave., Web site) is "totally incredible," Rosenthal said. The sculpted lions guarding the entrance were fitted with Bears helmets during their Super Bowl run of 1985.
A shiny, metallic, globular sculpture reflects the skyline in Millennium Park (55 N. Michigan Ave., Web site), and, best, you don't even have to leave your cab to view it.
Daley Plaza (337 E. Randolph Drive) has a giant Picasso sculpture. Some people think it looks like an angel, but no one knows for sure, Rosenthal said. In front of the Federal Plaza (230 S. Dearborn St.), there is a Calder of some note. And Chase Tower (21 S. Clark St.) is home to a huge mosaic by Chagall titled "The Four Seasons."
As to the ambience of Chicago when it comes to the Bears, "This is a town where people go to all kinds of different colleges, it has two baseball teams, not everyone is basketball fan, not everyone is a hockey fan, but everybody follows the Bears," Rosenthal said
"Of all the sports, it is the thing. The town sort of rises and falls with the Bears. The city's bigger than the Bears, but the Bears quicken our pulse. The poet Carl Sandburg wrote that Chicago is a city of big shoulders. What is a football team without big shoulders?
"The Bears at their best embody what we like to think the city of Chicago is about tough, hard hitting, get the job done. That's the way that we like to think of ourselves. We may be numb from the cold, but that won't stop us from what we are supposed to do."
Stadium information: Soldier Field is located three miles south of downtown Chicago at 1410 S. Museum Campus Drive.
Also on tap: As much as the locals might debate it, the Bears, of course, aren't the only game in town. Other professional action slated for action on the Divisional Playoffs weekend in the Windy City: the Bulls host the Grizzlies Saturday, Jan. 13, at 7:30 p.m CT (buy tickets); while the Blackhawks are at home versus the Wild on Sunday, Jan. 14, at 6 p.m. CT (buy tickets).
San Diego: Plan Trip | Hotel | Flight | Buy Chargers tickets
SUNDAY, JAN. 14
Patriots at Chargers, 1:30 p.m. PT
Qualcomm Stadium (est. 1967)
Southern California isn't like the East Coast or Midwest when it comes to spectator sports, according to Michael Rosenthal, assistant Sports Editor at the San Diego Union-Tribune. People here are too laid back, and there are way too many other things to do under the ever-shining sun, he said.
However, the city clearly has a love affair with its Chargers particularly now.
"Curiously, the more the team wins and wins, and wins the more people seem to be wearing those overpriced
dark blue and powder blue jerseys," Rosenthal said. "And almost all of them are emblazoned with No. 21."
Of course, that number belongs to LaDainian Tomlinson, the record-breaking running back and league MVP.
"We published an editorial cartoon comparing LaDainian Tomlinson to Superman and Batman, which undoubtedly hit home with people
here; he's a real-life superhero in these parts," Rosenthal said.
"At this point, heading into the playoffs with the best record in the NFL, all the Chargers are heroes."
He breaks down the things to do in San Diego in a list of his favorites:
Have a margarita on the outdoor patio overlooking the ocean, basking in the warm sunshine, at the landmark Hotel del Coronado (1500 Orange Ave., Coronado; Web site). Do they do that along Lake Michigan in Chicago in January?
You have Sea World (500 SeaWorld Drive, Web site) or the San Diego Zoo (2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park, Web site). Do you like sea creatures or those who live primarily on land? Doesn't matter. Both are world-class attractions that even locals flock too regularly.
Every other restaurant in town seems to favor Mexican delicacies, Rosenthal said. However, the one with the best ambience
might be Old Town Mexican Cafe (2489 San Diego Ave., Web site) in Old Town , a state historic site that was once the center of the city. Patrons have the pleasure of watching fresh tortillas being made and then devouring them. "I know Chicago has Taco Bell, but it's not the same thing," he said.
Go to Cabrillo National Monument (1800 Cabrillo Memorial Drive, Web site), which commemorates Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first European to step foot on the West Coast. The impressive statue of Cabrillo isn't the best part, though, Rosenthal said. The site, located on a bluff overlooking the ocean, offers a spectacular 360-degree view of the city, and beyond.
Take a stroll through Balboa Park (1549 El Prado, Web site), perhaps the most beautiful and vibrant municipal park in the country in the newspaper editor's estimation. The park houses the zoo, is packed full of museums (including the San Diego Hall of Champions (2131 Pan American Plaza, Web site), which chronicles the city's greatest teams and athletes), has a wonderful restaurant called The Prado (1549 El Prado, Web site) and there are miles of paths on which to stroll.
Remember, Rosenthal said, aside from an AFL championship in 1963, this might be the only big city never to have won a title in a major sport.
"These fans are hungry," he said. "If the Chargers lose, they'll be devastated, but familiar with the feeling. If they win, stand back: These laid-back folks will party as hard as anyone in Philly or Chicago can."
Stadium information: The stadium is located eight miles northeast of downtown San Diego at 9449 Friars Road.
Also on tap: Alas, the only other pro team, the Padres, is off for the winter. But if you dig college hoops, San Diego State hosts Colorado State at 1 p.m. PT Saturday, Jan. 13 (buy tickets).
Which city, Chicago or San Diego, would you plan a playoff trip around? Take part in our poll.
18hEthan Sherwood Strauss