Chicago Bears: History of the Team's International Play
As the Chicago Bears get set to take on the 0-7 Buffalo Bills in Canada this Sunday, I suddenly became increasingly interested in the history surrounding the Bears international play. Dating all the way back to 1976, the NFL has been very active in promoting its brand around the world. Even before the AFL merger in 1970, teams had been traveling outside the U.S. to play in exhibition games. The Bears have done this 5 times in their 91 years as a franchise, and this Sunday will be their first international game to be played during the regular season. So, in honor of the league's initiative, I put together a brief recap of each Bears game on non-domestic soil.
1997: Dublin, Ireland
Before the League’s ‘International Series’, they held an exhibition Bowl game each year, to be played outside the U.S., called ‘The American Bowl.’ In 1997, the Bears took on the Pittsburg Steelers in Dublin, Ireland, the storied home of Gaelic football. The Steelers, then led by Kordell Stewart, defeated the Chicago Bears 30-17, before a crowd of just over 30,000. Mike Tomczak (pictured) was a former Bear on the 85 championship team and Steelers’ backup QB at the time.
Source: NY Times
1991: Berlin, Germany
In 1991 the Bears met the 49ers in Berlin Germany, the site of the American Bowl. The Niners all but demolished the Bears 21-7, led by the great Joe Montana. "More or less we embarrassed ourselves out there today," Coach Ditka said. "We didn't execute. When we did have people open, we didn't throw the ball that well. There's a lot of room for improvement." The Bears only points came on a 22-yard reverse by wide receiver Glen Kozlowski.
Source: Associated Press
1988: Goteborg, Sweden
Billed as their "first real home game," the Vikings hosted the Bears in their native Sweden. An excited crowd of over 33,000 was in attendance to watch the Vikings defeat the Bears 28-21. Minnesota won with a Wade Wilson 4-yard TD pass to Reggie Ward with just over a minute remaining.
Source: Associated Press
1986: London, England
In the first ever American Bowl, the Bears beat the Cowboys 17-6, in London, England. Bears head coach Mike Ditka said the trip was fan-fiasco, with everyone wanting to see "The Fridge." Defensive lineman William Perry had become an international star thanks to his defensive prowess and infectious gap-toothed smile. One report said, "When the Bears got off the plane, people immediately started shouting, 'the fridge, the fridge, where's the fridge?!"
Source: "Game of My Life: Chicago Bears"
1961: Montreal, Canada
In the Bears first ever trip to Canadian soil, they left behind a dirty little secret; Subscribing to the "what happens in Canada, stays in Canada" phrase. Reports are that while the Chicago Press reported the Bears 34-16 win, they failed to report the "bench clearing brawl" that ensued. Reportedly, the fight started after a Wade-to-Farrington (Bears) completion was nullified by a penalty. Several players ran onto the field from the Chicago bench and the Alouettes swarmed right behind. The fight ended as quickly as it started and, ultimately, the Bears went home with the last laugh.
Source: Canadian Press