Any Chicago sports fan will tell you: Chicago is a Bears city. Today, we’re going to forget that ugly showing in New York a week ago, our current 3-1 record, even today’s matchup with the Carolina Panthers, and plunge into the history of one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, the Chicago Bears. Say it with me now: DAAAAAAaaaaaaaaa Bears!
When it comes to sports here in The Chi, we all form alliances with our favorites. Some love the White Sox while others torture themselves by cheering on the Cubs. The Bulls almost permanently made Chicago a Bulls city in the ‘90s, and they seem poised to gain some hoppers-on to their bandwagon this season. The Blackhawks regained some of their historical magic with last year’s Stanley Cup championship. However, through thick and thin, no matter what, we look forward to Sundays (and the occasional Monday Night Football appearance) to watch Chicago’s Team, The Monsters of the Midway, Da Bears.
But where did it all start? How does one city identify with a team so favorably? Well, Chicago is a hard-nosed, blue collar, working-class city. We are a tough bunch of SOBs, and the game of football represents that in the sports fans’ eyes. But the Bears didn’t even start in Chicago, and they weren’t always known as The Bears. Back in 1919, they started off as the Decatur Staleys. It just doesn’t have the same ring, does it? Staley Down? Decatur Staleys? No, it’s Bear Down, Chicago Bears. And that’s how it shall remain.
The Early Years
Founded in 1919 as the Decatur Staleys, the team moved to Chicago in 1922 to become known as the Chicago Bears after “Papa Bear” George Halas bought the team from some food starch company. Halas Hall, where the Bears practice and train, is named for the man who basically made the Bears the Bears. His initials, GSH are still found on the sleeve of every jersey of every Bears’ player to this day. He kept complete control of the team until he passed away in 1983. Legendary!
When football was getting its professional start, no one could fuck with the Bears. They won the league championship in 1921. Between 1920 and 1926, no team beat them more than once, and the Bears posted 34 shutouts during that time. These are unheard of statistics in today’s game. Not to mention their 73-0 trouncing of the Washington Redskins in the 1940 Championship Game still stands as the record for the most lopsided victory-and it came in the freakin’ championship! Thrilling the nation, Halas invented a new T-Formation, which gets much of the credit for the victory, but still…
The Bears won their 8th NFL Championship in 1963, but the ‘60s and ‘70s would be known more for individual talent than team accomplishments. Gale Sayers and Brian Piccolo inspired the movie, Brian’s Song, considered by many as the greatest football movie ever made. Dick Butkus was the first in a long line of intimidating Bears’ Linebackers that still inspire Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs to this day. Mike Ditka played tight end, but he was worshipped more as head coach in the ‘80s and ‘90s than as a player back in the day. It wasn’t until a little running back by the name of Walter Payton came along that the Bears would return to greatness.
I don’t care what anyone says. Walter Payton is the greatest all-around running back the NFL has ever seen. I mean, he held the rushing record up until Emmitt Smith broke it in 2002, but no back ran the ball like Sweetness. Instead of running out of bounds, he’d turn back upfield and run defenders over. He’s leap over defensive lines into end zones. His stiff arm was more of a knockout punch than anything. I can’t even try to do his game justice with my meaningless words here. Just watch the videos. You’re welcome.
The Bears played home games at historical Wrigley Field until the 1971 season when Soldier Field opened its doors to the Bears. That’s right, folks. The Bears shared Wrigley with the Cubs up until just a few decades ago, but Soldier Field is one of my favorite spots in all of Chicago. I don’t think there’s a better view than driving south on LSD, hitting that curve with our majestic skyline, stoic Soldier Field, and beautiful Lake Michigan all in one take.
The ‘85 Bears and Super Bowl XX
No team is more iconic than the ‘85 Bears. To this day, they are still talked about as the greatest defense ever. In addition to the D, they had a pretty damn good offense, too. Walter Payton led the typical “running game first, defense led” style. Jim McMahon could air it out from time to time. Willie Gault was an underrated receiver. But that D! Shit. Super Bowl MVP Richard Dent led the defense in many ways, but so many legends made up that defense: William “The Refrigerator” Perry, Mike Singletary, Ron “Chico” Rivera, Steve “Mongo” McMichael, Otis Wilson, Leslie Frazier, Gary Fencik and Dave Duerson, Dan “Danimal” Hampton, Wilber Marshall. Another ridiculously lopsided victory in Super Bowl XX (they beat the New England Patriots 46-10) cements the Chicago Bears into the conversation about most storied franchise and all that.
How many Super Bowl champs record a song as memorable (or forgettable?) as The Super Bowl Shuffle by the way?
So there you have it. Chicago Bears history for all you youngsters, old time fans, and everyone in between. We may have a team in every major sport and two in baseball, but no team unites us sports fans quite like the Bears. Now, let’s Bear Down and get some wins!