From the Original Six Blackhawks to six Bulls championships to the 1985 Bears, sports are deeply rooted in Chicago's culture.
The newest addition to the city's sports scene is the Chicago Sports Museum. The venue, on the seventh floor of Water Tower Place, and opened earlier this month in conjunction with Harry Caray's 7th Inning Stretch restaurant.
I visited the 8,000-square-foot museum recently to test its interactive exhibits and rated them according to their level of cool (detailed below).
LEVEL OF COOL
1 – (major fail) 105 years without a World Series
5 – (totally awesome) 2 goals in 17 seconds in the Stanley Cup Final
Learn to pitch with Steve Stone: 1
The first exhibit when you encounter is "coming soon," so I have to deduct points for the immediate disappointment. Right away, though, memories of the good ol’ days of Chicago baseball come flooding back between Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009 and Greg Maddux's illustrious career. It has potential to be a 5 once the exhibit is up and running.
Scottie Pippen wingspan: 5
Never had the opportunity to stand next to one of the best basketball players in Chicago? Well now is your chance, kind of. You can see how your wingspan compares to the 6-foot-8 frame of Bulls legend Scottie Pippen. I appreciated this display for its simplicity. It's easy to navigate and anyone can do it.
Measure your vertical leap: 5
What about Michael Jordan? Want to compare your vertical to His Airness'? The mural on the wall is awesome and instead of using a tape measure, there are the always-enticing light-up buttons to press. Your vertical jump height automatically pops up on the screen, no measuring tape required.
Try on a Super Bowl ring: 3
He's known as "The Refrigerator" for a reason. The largest Super Bowl ring ever made, according to the museum, is that of former Bears defensive lineman William Perry from the 1985 team. A replica of the Size 25 ring is available for anyone to try on. (The average male ring size is 10-12, according to the museum.) This exhibit is cool—not jump up-and-down-exciting cool, but still interesting.
Measure your reaction time: 3
The point of this game is to press the colored dots when they light up. It definitely gets points for the two different levels (junior and adult) and number of players (1-2). I do have to subtract points because (slightly embarrassing admission) I had trouble reaching the top row of buttons. Fellow short people, we might have to stick to the junior version.
Compare hand sizes: 4
We see NBA players gripping the basketball with one hand, and we are astonished. So how big are their hands compared to our merely mortal ones? Now you can compare the size to five famous Bulls and one Sky athlete.
Chicago sports trivia: 5
How much do you really know about this city's sports? You can test yourself in this 12-question game, and compete against someone else if you want.
Baseball hitting game: 4
Place your feet on the designated spots in the batter's box and swing away. Between a lack of coordination and the fact that it’s been a few years since I’ve been to the batting cages, I failed at this game. It's just a matter of skill and personal preference. If you're into baseball and can time pitches accurately, you'll excel at this.
You're the quarterback: 5
Throw the ball and hit your targets before Richard Dent (defensive end from the 1985 Bears) sacks you. It took me a couple of tries to get used to it and it was just a basic throwing drill, but it works for all ages.
Be the goalie: 5
Players act as the goaltender and get a quick glimpse into the skates of opposing net minders as they face Patrick Kane's shots. Block the puck by diving right and left, with your stick, or any way you can.
Wolves shooting challenge: 4
Shoot the puck into the net or to your teammate to tally the assist. The screen will tell you where you need to shoot the puck, whether it’s to one of your teammates or into the net.
Basketball shooting game: 5
My favorite of the computer-simulated games, and also the most popular judging by the guests crowding around it. Grab the simulated basketball and the computer tracks your actions as you shoot the ball. You'll shoot jump shots from the corners, even from half court. Good form is the key here.
Blow up the ball: 3
Spoiler alert: The ball doesn't actually blow up. That disappointment ruined this one for me. It's all lighting and special effects. Still impressive, but my expectations were set pretty high.
Harry Caray broadcast booth: 2
This activity has potential, if only it hadn't been broken when I visited. When it works, you're supposed to be able to record a video of yourself while sitting in the booth and then email it to yourself.
Baseball CAT scans: 3
This one's just OK. View a CAT scan of Sammy Sosa’s corked bat or check out side-by-side scans of a 1945 World Series ball and Paul Konerko’s grand slam ball from the 2005 World Series. Was the 1945 ball actually "dead," as that era has been described?
If you consider yourself a Chicago sports history buff or someone who wants to try a different sport, if only for a few minutes, you'll enjoy this museum immensely. It's got something for all ages, and you get a cool Harry Caray stamp on your hand when you enter. Plus, it's a steal for only $6 (admission is free to guests who eat at the restaurant with minimum purchase). It takes about an hour to venture through all the exhibits. Going with a group would be worthwhile, but you won't lose if you decide to check it out on your own, either.
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