MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Still with football now, last night, the Chicago Bears were upset by the Green Bay Packers, 26 to 7. And note I said, last night, the teams played on New Year's Eve in primetime in a last-minute maneuver by the NFL to boost ratings. So thousands of Bears fans had to dump their New Year's Eve plans, only to watch their team be defeated.

But as Chicago Public Radio's Alex Helmick reports, at the beginning of the night, most were in a forgiving mood.

ALEX HELMICK: It's Sunday night in Chicago, and fans are pouring into Soldier Field. The game was supposed to be at noon on New Year's Eve, but late Christmas night, NFL officials decided to move it to 7:15 Central Time. That means all ticket holders had to change their New Year's plans, or sell their tickets. The predicament caused a local stir. Bloggers cried foul and newspaper columnists called it a bad move.

But on Sunday night, fans found a way to cope. Sue Sagallos(ph) is a Packers fan. She drove down to Chicago with her friends.

Ms. SUE SAGALLOS: My brother was coming, and he called to say, probably, some husbands couldn't come because their wives said, you're not going to the game, you're going out with us, so us single girls who were looking for something better from Milwaukee to do - got the tickets.

HELMICK: Next to her is Ryan Stiles(ph)s tickets weren't free, but he did get them out at lower price than expected.

Mr. RYAN STILES: I've been looking earlier, because they're too expensive. And so as soon as they changed the game time, that meant tickets have become available at much cheaper, so I got mine this week at face value.

HELMICK: Steve Bazille(ph) is a local ticket broker. He owns (Unintelligible) Closed Tickets. Bazille says, after the NFL made the schedule change, Bears tickets flooded the market and sank prices.

Mr. STEVE BAZILLE: You can get in right now, to the game for probably $150 a piece. If it was 12:00 game, that price would probably be $250 to $300.

HELMICK: But still, lots of fans lost out on the bargain. Down by Soldier Field an hour before game time, dozens of people are looking for tickets, and there's not a scalper in sight. Normally, there are people selling tickets all along the 20-minute walk to Soldier Field, from the city's famed L-train, but today, none.

Cameron Astis(ph) and his two friends have been looking for tickets for hours.

Mr. CAMERON ASTIS: Yeah, it's a pretty depressing situation out here right now. We've been wandering around, a lot of people looking, and no one looking to dump them so. So it's looking like we're going to just go try to find a bar to watch the game in. It's not a promising situation out here. We're not optimistic.

HELMICK: Paul Macmillan(ph) is in the same situation. He and his two kids are standing in front of the stadium, looking for a seller.

Where are all the scalpers at?

Mr. PAUL MACMILLAN (Bears Fan): They're gone today.

HELMICK: I mean, have you gone to Bear games before?

Mr. MCMILLAN: No, we're hoping to go to our first one.

HELMICK: And you're just looking for tickets?

Mr. MCMILLAN: Yeah. Maybe at the last minute people will change their minds.

HELMICK: No luck.

Mr. MCMILLAN: No.

HELMICK: But fan Christa Ward held on to her tickets, she says she didn't care that the game changed her New Year's plans.

Mr. CHRISTA WARD: We wanted to come here and party with the Bears, because we're true Bears' fans. And then we're going to go party afterwards and have a great time.

HELMICK: So it seems once the euphoria of game day takes over, Bears fans can celebrate a New Year, even if their team gives them little to celebrate.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Helmick in Chicago.

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