Partly to commemorate the Chicago Bears’ lone Super Bowl title and also to help mourn the recent loss to the Green Bay Packers, I read Da Bears!: How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History. A few thoughts about this book, one of many products commemorating this 25th anniversary:
1. A main theme of the book is the ongoing battle between Head Coach Mike Ditka and defensive coordinator Buddy Ryan. How exactly the team kept moving forward with this kind of tension is interesting.
2. There are claims that the Bears were the team that really helped push the NFL to the top. With their winning plus the actions and charm of their players, the Bears were a kind of media circus in an era where this didn’t happen often.
2a. The problem with a claim like this is that little evidence is presented that might conflict with this narrative. At one point, the book mentions that several teams had recorded songs as teams before the “Super Bowl Shuffle” but it was this 1985 song that really took off. Another (implicit?) claim is that the Bears really pushed athlete endorsements forward. Were other star athletes not doing commercials? In the end, how exactly do we know the Bears were something different in the eyes of the media compared to any other team of the time? I would have liked to have read more perspectives from outside of Chicago – were people across the country as intrigued with the Bears as Chicagoans were?
3. Some things never seem to change with the Bears: defense over offense, inconsistent quarterback play, complaints about the McCaskeys, an inability to follow up on success (with the 1985 Super Bowl team never getting back to another title game), fickle fans who suddenly were worried at the end of the 1985 season with less than perfect play, and more. How long can a team have the same basic identity?
4. As a cultural phenomenon, it would be interesting to track other teams that have captured the heart of a city in the same way as the Bears. While the list of endorsements and radio shows during the 1985 season was impressive, many of those guys are still around in the Chicago media. Will there be a point where the 1985 team is eclipsed by another team or was their combination of dominance and style too much to overcome?
5. It was unclear to me how much of this book was original research versus drawing from existing sources.
Overall, I’m not sure how much new material this book presents: many of the themes are widely known. There are a wide range of perspectives in this book but I think you also find this information elsewhere. I was looking for a new take on a famous team and yet you will hear the same things on local sports talk stations and other media.