"Da Bears" by Steve Delsohn - BGO Book Review

25 years later, when I think back to my college days, there are two important events that remain seared into my memory.

The first was watching the ’85 Bears play Miami on Monday Night Football with my fraternity. 50-60 guys huddled together elbow to elbow around our “living room” tv (which was tiny compared to the wide screens we have today); Half of the “brothers” had adopted the Chicago Bears that year as their new favorite team and half of them were die-hard fans of other teams who were rooting against them. I still remember the pain of that loss, of the absolute shock that this team could be beat. And as a Chicagoan, even a relatively young one, all of the doubt and fear and anxiety that accompanies fandom in Chicago bubbled up all over again.

The second one is standing outside that same fraternity house in the frigid cold, screaming “The  Bears WON THE SUPER BOWL!! Thank you God for letting me see that at least once in my life!!!”

I love the Bears. And I love this book.

“Da Bears” by Steve Delsohn tracks the season from the heart-wrenching loss to Joe Montana and the 49ers in the 1984 NFC Championship through training camp, the ’85 season and the craziness leading up to the Super Bowl. Steve brings back all of the great personalities (and personality conflicts) that made the Bears enigmatic, unique, intriguing and most of all human.

This book will bring you back to that wonderful year and let you see these Monsters of the Midway in a genuine, personal way. Author Steve Delsohn highlights some of the key moments in that season, bringing you the perspective of the Bears today as they reflect back on those moments. For anyone who is a true Chicago Bears fan, you will re-live not just every game of that season, but you will hear what the Bears players actually thought about their own actions and the actions that swirled around them.

What amazes me, reading this book is reflecting on how things have changed in the NFL and recognizing the impact that team had on the NFL today.

  • What Jim McMahon did naturally, his goofy personality and sideline gimmicks were genuine pieces of who he was, but all of his actions have found a resurrection (I believe) in the manufactured zaniness of guys like Ocho Cinco and Terrell Owens.
  • Offenses today are completely different BECAUSE of the ’85 Bears; the Spread, the West coast, even the Wildcat have all evolved because of the 46 Defense.
  • Defensive lineman all weigh over 300 pounds today because a “wasted draft pick” named Refrigerator Perry showed the world that a 330 pound defensive lineman could actually have agility enough to be a running back, let alone a successful defensive tackle.
  • And, from the “business perspective” of the sport, this team served as the catalyst for a revolution in how marketing and advertising aligned with players and teams (Heck, our ’85 Bears were so big, even the offensive lineman had their own poster!).

But what this book does first and foremost is remind us of who these guys were as human beings. The foibles and failings, the passion and drive that made all of these players human is what made them great athletes, and what also endeared them to the Grabowskis of Chicago (and all of America really).

From Coach Iron Mike Ditka’s fury to Buddy Ryan’s aggression, Dan Hampton’s threshold for pain to Jimbo Covert’s toughness, William Perry’s girth to Willie Gault’s fragility and speed, Jim McMahon’s individuality and Walter “Sweetness” Payton’s greatness. This book brings it all back.

“Da Bears” is a wonderful read. I enjoyed every minute of it.

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