The most celebrated team in Chicago sports history is also the greatest team in the history of sports. I’m talking, of course, about the 1985 Chicago Bears.
As we near the 25th anniversary of that team’s Super Bowl XX win over New England, its players still don’t have to worry about buying drinks in Chicago.
That team was unmatched in talent, as well as characters: Walter Payton, Mike Singletary, Dan Hampton, Mike Ditka, Buddy Ryan, Richard Dent, Jim McMahon, Steve McMichael, William Perry...I could go on.
They were celebrities.The city was, at that time, absolutely buzzing with Bears fever. I remember wearing a ’85 Bears knit hat as a three-year-old in preschool. I’ve been hooked on the Monsters of the Midway ever since.
And it was in part due to those enormous, rebellious personalities, which are incomparable to today’s play-it-safe, corporate athletes.
Many members of that team used their fame to further their careers post-football. They joined the media, opened restaurants, entered the NFL coaching ranks. Backup offensive linemen could just flash their Super Bowl rings and their appearance fees would quadruple.
But all of that would have been irrelevant if the team couldn’t play. For that one season, nobody (except Miami—but who’s counting?) could take them down. The way they dominated the entire postseason makes you wonder if any Super Bowl champion before or since then could beat them.
The team got its identity from its defense, with its 46 scheme, coached by Ryan. Every few years a great defense will come along—the ’08 Steelers and the ’00 Ravens come to mind—and pundits will compare them to the ’85 Bears. They’re used as a measuring stick.
The group, led by Singletary and Wilbur Marshall and anchored by Hampton, William Perry and Steve McMichael, was perhaps the most feared unit of all time. It dominated like only a handful of defenses in the history of the NFL ever have.
The other side of the ball wasn’t bad either. And all because of one man: Sweetness. Having quite possibly the best running back in NFL history made the offense a force in its own right. Nobody wanted to play the Bears.
And, boy, did that team have confidence. They didn’t think they would ever lose. And they were right (with one exception: a Monday night in southern Florida). Some people forget that the Super Bowl Shuffle was recorded before the team was even in the Super Bowl. If that’s not confidence (and, it could be argued, arrogance—though they could back it up), what is?
Speaking of the 25th anniversary, it will undoubtedly be celebrated in Chicago. Along with the 30th anniversary, the 35th, the 40th and so on. This is a football crazy town. It was diagnosed loony for pigskin after that ’85 season.
More recent championships by the Bulls (six) and the White Sox (one – first in 88 years) are and were not celebrated as much as the Bears win in Super Bowl XX.
The only disappointment surrounding the team is that it won only one title. Ask any of the players and they’ll tell you the same. But the fact that they did it just that one time makes their popularity all the more amazing.
Regardless, it can’t be denied that for that one magical season, that one 12-month span, they were a force, as dominant a group of football players as has ever been assembled on one sideline. They had one goal, one focus. Nobody (it was best not to try) was going to deny them that.