By Laurence Holmes–

Last night, I moderated a Q & A with the players.  When y0u’ve spent 13 years asking questions of athletes, it’s good to get perspective from the people you serve (the fans).

The realization that I made last night is that fans want the critique.  They want the info. They want to understand the game, but more importantly they want to get to know the players.  At it’s core, there still needs to be a connection between fan and player.  Making that connection can be difficult because we live in a soundbite world.  It’s hard to get a real read when you’re only hearing a :15  answer.  A trip like this makes that connection more attainable.

There were a couple of questions about the labor situation.  One fan asked if the players could lower ticket prices, only to learn that players have to pay for their tickets too.  Charles Tillman pointed out that players spend an average of about 25k a season on tickets for friends and family and they don’t get a discount.

Most of the questions were more personal.  Simple, yet probing.  The environment allowed for players to give of themselves a bit more.  One fan asked about life after football.  The answers ranged from:  Chester Taylor saying all he wants to do is sleep.  Charles Tillman wanting to go into law enforcement.  Craig Steltz is hoping to fish and D.J. Moore wants to go back to Spartansburg, S.C. and help run community centers for at-risk children.

The boys were asked about their charity work, who inspires them, how do you get over a tough loss, when they knew they could be NFL players and more…

I told a couple of stories from this year from the reporters perspective:  1)  The Score’s Nick Shepkowski going down the Bears schedule in a Bourbonnais bar, predicting out-loud each game.  Little did he know that Johnny Knox was behind him and asked “Why the (bleep) can’t we win that game?”  It drew a big laugh from both Knox and the crowd.  Sorry Shep…2)  How moving it was to be in the room after Devin Hester broke Brian Mitchell’s return for touchdown record. It was so honest and real.  To me, the most poignant moment of the year.  Hester re-lived that moment for the audience and shared how much it meant to him.  To watch this shy kid blossom into someone who can command a room with a microphone now is pretty amazing.

My hope is that the fans got some of that connection that they were looking for and perhaps the players did too.