Remembering Doug Buffone
I’m writing with a heavy heart tonight, hoping to do a little healing after learning the news of the passing of Chicago Bears legend Doug Buffone. What, you don’t think Doug Buffone is a Bears legend? Then you haven’t been paying attention. Buffone often gets lost in the crowd of great Chicago Bears linebackers like Dick Butkus, Bill George, Bronki Nagurski, Mike Singletary and Brian Urlacher but he did his talking both on and off the field.
Buffone was named one of the Bears’ most underrated players by NFL.com:
"Doug Buffone — LB, 1966-79The proud Bears franchise endured some dark times between the Halas and Ditka eras, but one of their shining stars during the period of time was Doug Buffone. Buffone was a tackling machine, and anchored the Bears defense for 14 seasons. The Bears have a littany of iconic, Hall of Fame caliber linebackers in their history (Dick Butkus, Bill George, Bronko Nagurski, Mike Singletary, and so on) yet because Buffone was lost in the middle of those names, he’s never discussed. He deserves to be in the discussion. Buffone started 186 games as a Bear, during which time he recorded more than 1,200 tackles and 24 interceptions (the most by a Bears linebacker in franchise history). That production on an unheralded team is exactly why Buffone makes this list."
But what Dougie did on the field was just a tiny part of what I remember about him. The first time I even heard the name Doug Buffone, I was in high school, working at the local Ace Hardware. One day, this guy brings in a storm window in to be fixed and the guy behind the counter comes to the break room and says, “That’s Doug Buffone! That’s Doug Buffone!” And the 15 year old me say “Who the hell is Doug Buffone?” Doug couldn’t be more gracious as the “old timers” fawned over him and his window. But I went on to want to learn about this Bears linebacker and how great he really was, but it wasn’t until years later when I “reunited” with Doug.
I’ve been an avid listener of The Score since the summer of 1995, when I graduated college and started to work full time. I can’t remember a time when Doug Buffone wasn’t a part of The Score team. Whether he was teamed up with former Bulls legend Norm Van Lier to form “The Bull and the Bear” or with Mike North to form “The Wise Guys” Buffone was chiming in with his takes not only on the Chicago Bears but on everything Chicago sports. Besides his classic postgame shows, Buffone created the gambling persona “Big Doug” and chimed in with his NFL and college football picks every week during football season on the Score’s morning show.
But Buffone’s biggest impact for me was the Bears post-game show he hosted with fellow former Bears legend Ed O’Bradovich. It was appointment listening, especially if the Bears lost. And in recent years, we know there was plenty of that. Doug’s passion came across the airwaves like he was still filling the hole and stopping the ballcarrier dead in his tracks.
Doug was at his best, sadly, when the Bears lost. He would go nuts and yell and scream like all of us. That’s what made him so special, he was like us. He didn’t sugarcoat what he saw and try to soften the blow following a tough loss. Just check out some of the Best of Doug and OB:
Listen to the whole bit or if you want some classic Doug, roll forward to the 15:15 mark following a Bears loss to the Lions in 2011.
Besides the near brush with Doug when he brought his storm window to the Ace Hardware where I worked, I never met Doug Buffone yet I really feel such a big loss. I think it’s because Doug was such a big part of my life for so many years. He reached right through the radio and sat next to you and you steamed after every Bears loss.
Something important I learned from Doug was that’s it’s OK, in fact it’s important to be critical of the team you love. Doug got so mad and ripped the Bears because he cared so much. We don’t have to blindly follow and cheer. We can be critical of the Bears because we care.
Doug always said he had one play left in him. He wasn’t sure if he’d be able to get off the field under his own power, but he could play one more down of goal line defense. And you know what? I believe him. I just wish he’d had the chance. Sundays this season just won’t be the same.