Off-Season Readin’: Da Bears


Da Bears! by Steve Delsohn

The title of this second recommendation says it all: Da Bears! How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History by Steve Delsohn who is a reporter for ESPN. Delsohn does an excellent job telling the story of the 1985 Chicago Bears team and each individual’s personality.

This book starts at the end of the 1984 season when quarterback Jim McMahon had a serious injury in his kidney when he was sandwiched between two Los Angeles Raiders’ players. This injury was so serious that McMahon’s kidney was almost removed, but wasn’t due to a miracle. McMahon’s agent, Steve Zucker, commented: “He was pissing blood, I mean pure blood, and he was intense pain” (4). The team’s focus was to get McMahon healed and healthy and for him to remain that way despite his “wild man” persona he played up for the fans. Everyone agreed, if McMahon would remain strong, they would make it to the Super Bowl.

One antidote I appreciated pertained to Coach Mike Ditka’s approach. Ditka refused to just explain to his players what do to, how to do and why to do it. He showed them all of these lessons by directly instructing them. “I played the game, don’t forget. I understood what players went through,” Ditka explained (36). This understanding is critical to a coach’s success. He admitted that he knew what all of his players were doing, good or bad, but he refused to “play policeman” with this information. As a result, the players have to give their coach the respect he not only deserves, but the respect he has rightfully earned.

Delsohn goes in-depth about the rift between Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. Ryan’s coaching technique was built upon the foundation of military precision and discipline. Middle linebacker Mike Singletary reflected, “…He would break a man down of everything he had, then allow him to build himself back up again. There is something psychologically brainwashing about that process. Underneath it all, you knew he love you, and this was the only way he knew how to do things – the military way” (57). Even though some may disagree with Ryan’s approach, it was one that proved effective for the defensive players. They understood where Ryan came from, what his background consisted of, and as a result, they were able to stop the ball when needed as a single unit.

Another part I enjoyed was when Delsohn references to William Perry, who started as a defensive tackle, but ended up playing on offense. Ryan’s dislike for Perry, whom he constantly referred to as “a waste of space,” provided an accelerant to fuel the fiery feud between Ryan and Ditka (120). Ditka commented that he “made the Fridge” and that he “made him a national hero” (120). Even though Perry’s rookie year was with the 1985 Chicago Bears, he did have a national spotlight on him provided by many cooperate American companies and even his own group of overweight women known as the “Refigerettes” (120).

Naturally, the book ends with the team making it down to New Orleans for Super Bowl XX. All of the players quoted by Delsohn stated that this week was “chaos” and that they all “had a blast” since they were the “youngest team in the league” (201). The players managed to get their fun in as the pay-off for all of their efforts all season, but once the “family plane” arrived filled with their wives, children and other relatives, they had to get focused (202).

Delsohn’s book serves as a fitting tribute to the reciting of this season through the team’s individual members’ points of view. If you want a fly-on-the-wall perspective, this book explains what happened the entire journey with this distinctive group of men.