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Bears were not bores in 1985
MIAMI. — Even if they win this Super Bowl, the ‘06 Chicago Bears will never measure up to the ‘85 Bears — and don’t they know it. I’m not talking about on-field accomplishments; I’m talking about off-field escapades. I’m not talking about the number of future Hall of Famers on the roster; I’m talking about number of Absolute Wild Men on the roster. In those two departments, the ‘85 Bears would whip the current edition about 73-0. The game would be over before Prince cleared his throat.
The club Lovie Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo have assembled is as nondescript as the Bears’ uniforms, an almost perfect reflection of the understated head coach. Oh, every once in a while somebody does something screwy — an Olin Kreutz breaks a teammate’s jaw during an argument, a Tank Johnson gets charged with owning a six-pack of unregistered guns — but for the most part the players are on their very best behavior.
The ‘85 club, on the other hand, led the league in: “We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin.” It was a team of renegades and incorrigibles and outsized personalities — presided over by Bears icon Mike Ditka, who would later be pictured on a magazine cover next to a player (Ricky Williams) dressed in a wedding gown. Think Lovie Smith will ever be pictured on a magazine cover next to the Runaway Bride of Frankenstein?
“The amazing thing about that team is that none of the stories, I don’t think, are exaggerated,” says Aaron Moorehead, a wide receiver for the other Super Bowl contestant, the Colts. “It’s all true.”
Why should we doubt him? His father, Emery, was a tight end on the ‘85 championship club. Aaron was only 5 years old at the time, and “when you’re a little kid, you don’t completely understand everything that’s going on,” he says. “But that was a special team they had.”
Oh, it was special, all right. Beginning with the quarterback, Jim McMahon. McMahon spiced up Super Bowl week by mooning a TV helicopter that flew, U-2 like, over a Bears practice. He also was accused by a New Orleans radio station of calling the entire local female population “sluts,” a story that turned out to be fabricated.
(Not that it wasn’t plausible. McMahon was liable to say or do just about anything, even play golf barefoot.)
The coordinator of the club’s stormtrooping “46” defense, Buddy Ryan, was as outrageous as Ditka. “The humor of it all,” says Ron Rivera, now boss of the Bears’ D but then a backup linebacker, “was Buddy’s confidence going into every game. Before our first playoff game against the Giants, he told us if we didn’t screw it up we’d win because he’d put together a great game plan. Before the NFC Championship game, he told us the same thing.”
What a cast of characters. You had William Perry, the Round Mound of Defensive Tackle, who when he wasn’t flattening opponents was serving as a 330-pound short-yardage back. You had safety Gary Fencik, who dated a Playboy Playmate, and offensive tackle Keith Van Horne, who married the vice president’s daughter. (OK, by then, he was the former vice president of the United States.)
Alas, they divorced a short time later. “I married him for all the wrong reasons,” Eleanor Mondale said.
There must have been a bunch of them. Her husband, after all, was an ‘85 Bear.
Today’s Bears are a veritable sleeping pill by comparison. The coach is named Smith. The running back is named Jones. Two other starters answer to Brown. Could they be any more boring? I mean, not only has the quarterback, Rex Grossman, not dropped his drawers this week, his parents attend every dadgum game. How many newspapers is that going to sell?
But it wasn’t just what the ‘85 Bears were, it’s what they went on to become. Refrigerator Perry turned to Toughman boxing. Linemate Steve McMichael wrestled professionally under the name of “Mongo,” subduing foes with his feared Mongo Spike. Wideout Willie Gault competed in the Olympics as a bobsledder. Ditka — Iron Mike — hired himself out as a pitchman for an erectile-dysfunction medication.
You couldn’t make this stuff up. (Especially Dan Hampton, another D-lineman, getting arrested for DWI five days before he was voted into the Hall of Fame.) They were a club for the ages, the ‘85 Bears were, a club whose essence was best expressed by Tim Wrightman, the philosophical tight end.
“There’s no ‘I’ in team,” he once noted, “but there’s an ‘m’ and an ‘e.’ ‘
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