We're so bad we know we're good

Another Bears opener I didn’t watch. I don’t regret missing the game—controversial finish and all—because I don’t consider the current players to be the real Chicago Bears.

These are the real Bears.

That was, unbelievably, twenty-five years ago, a year of big changes for me. I finished school, moved back to the Chicago area for a new job, and got married, all within a few months. The ’85 Bears were the backdrop for all the changes.

I remember going Christmas shopping that year, and the Super Bowl Shuffle was everywhere. VCRs had only recently come down to reasonable price. They were a popular Christmas present, and every store that carried them had a display showing the Shuffle. You could walk around a mall and hear it 15-20 times. And it didn’t get old.

If you’re not from Chicago, you may not understand how important the Bears were to us. It had been a generation since Chicago had won any professional sports championship. As sportswriter Bob Verdi used to say, “City of broad shoulders and narrow trophy cases.” Even when we won, we lost. The White Sox had won 99 games ’83, the most in the majors, only to lose 3-1 to the Orioles in the playoffs. Worse, the Cubs won their division in ’84, took a 2-0 lead over the Padres in the playoffs, and then blew the series by losing three in a row—a choking matched only by the legendary ’69 collapse.

But the ’85 Bears were different; they just got better in the playoffs. We were shocked when the Patriots took the lead in the Super Bowl with a field goal. The Bears had won the previous postseason games 21-0 and 24-0, and we didn’t think it was possible to score on them.

Ultimately, of course, the Bears returned to the Chicago standard. They spent the rest of the ’80s teasing us with good regular seasons and poor playoffs. A team with the talent to win at least one more Super Bowl never even returned to the game. It took the Jordan Bulls of the ’90s to give us a sports dynasty.

But the ’85 Bears were our first champions, and middle-aged Chicago sports fans will never forget them.