An awful lot has happened since 1985.
Ronald Reagan finished his second term as President, the Bush family – both father and son – inhabited the White House for a combined 12 years, Bill Clinton occupied the oval office for the eight years between H. W. and W. and Barack Obama became the first African-American to be known as the most powerful man in the world.
Tom Cruise has been through three wives – first Mimi Rogers, then Nicole Kidman and currently Katie Holmes – and went from the unquestioned biggest movie star on the planet around the time of Top Gun (1986) to a Scientology-wielding, couch-jumping, psychiatry-bashing weirdo over the course of the Mission: Impossible series (M:I IV is scheduled to be released in 2011).
The Rolling Stones have embarked on their final world tour half a dozen separate times. The Simpsons went from a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show to the longest-running American prime-time entertainment series, surpassing Gunsmoke. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates amassed somewhere in the vicinity of $54 billion in net worth, despite his wife Melinda's best efforts to give away every penny.
You can now use your mobile phone to read the newspaper, send text messages, take photos, get directions, play video games and measure the exact yardage to the pin on the 18th green – and it doesn't even have to be built into the console of your DeLorean anymore.
However, one thing that has NOT happened in the last quarter century is the city of Chicago ceasing its celebration of the Bears winning Super Bowl XX on January 26, 1986.
Don't get me wrong. Those Monsters of the Midway deserved their share of ticker-tape parades, as they were more monstrous than ever in 1985.
A 15-1 record. No. 2 in the league in points per game (28.5). No. 1 in the league in points allowed per game (12.4). No. 1 in the league in turnover ratio (plus-23). Shutting out both the Giants (21-0) and Rams (24-0) in the NFC playoffs. And then destroying the Patriots 46-10 on Super Sunday in New Orleans, a game that was never as close as even a 36-point margin of victory would suggest. For most observers, it seemed like 50-0.
Iron Mike. Danimal. The Punky QB. Mongo. Sweetness. The Fridge. Silky D. Samurai Mike. Butthead. The list of unforgettable nicknames is long and distinguished.
Coach Mike Ditka sells salsa and bloody mary mix in Chicagoland grocery stores by the oil drum because of 1985. Quarterback Jim McMahon plays in 100-plus golf outings annually – barefoot and well lubricated every time, of course – all across the country because of 1985. Linebacker Otis Wilson is rarely greeted by passers by with, "Hello, Mr. Wilson," but instead subjected to a daily barrage of strangers shouting, "Otis! My man!" in Animal House-like fashion because of 1985.
Can you imagine Bill Wade, Rick Casares and Doug Atkins putting together a rap video back in the championship season of 1963?
Shufflin' on down doin' it for you
We're so bad we know we're good
Blowin' your mind like we knew we would
You know we're just struttin' for fun
Struttin' our stuff for everyone
We're not here to start no trouble
We're just here to do the Super Bowl Shuffle
Still, after two and a half decades, isn't it time for the Windy City to move on and concentrate more on the here-and-now Midway Monsters?
Every time the Bears get off to a good start and look to be a contender again for that ever-elusive second Vince Lombardi Trophy, be it 2001, 2006 or the current team of 2010, the endless comparisons begin: Brian Urlacher isn't nearly the middle linebacker Mike Singletary was; Thomas Jones and Cedric Benson combined aren't half the running back Walter Payton used to be; Julius Peppers is great and all but give me Richard Dent any day.
Dave Wannstedt? Dick Jauron? Ditka's mustache could out-coach those two bozos.
"I think the reason Bears fans have such a hard time moving on is all about unrealized hopes, dreams and expectations," says Hub Arkush, the Publisher and Editor of Pro Football Weekly.
In 1985, in addition to running PFW, Arkush was also an analyst on the pregame, halftime and postgame shows on the Chicago Bears Radio Network.
"The 1985 Bears were arguably the greatest team ever over a single season in the NFL," he says. "But that team, which was the youngest in the NFL that year, not only never won another Super Bowl, but it never got back to one. Asking folks to give up a dream, even if they know it will never come true, is an awfully tough thing to do."
The Bears went 14-2 in 1986. Statistically speaking, the defense was even better than '85, surrendering 11 fewer points (187). Their 165-point differential again led the NFL. But after a first-round bye, Chicago welcomed the overwhelming-underdog Redskins to Soldier Field in the divisional playoffs and inexplicably lost 27-13.
Payton never played another game, and the Bears were no longer a national obsession.
Contrary to popular belief, Chicago has indeed seen its fair share of sensational football players ever since "The Super Bowl Shuffle" stopped being shown on MTV.
Erik Kramer is the organization's best quarterback in terms of passer rating, posting a career 80.7 mark and holding single-season records for passing yards (3,838) and touchdown passes (29). Neal Anderson is the second-leading rusher in club history and may be the most underappreciated Bear to ever put an orange C on his helmet. Donnell Woolford intercepted 32 passes during his eight-year stint at cornerback.
Urlacher and Lance Briggs at linebacker. Marty Booker at receiver. Mike Brown at safety. Robbie Gould is an amazing kicker. Devin Hester is an otherworldly return man.
They were all great, and some of them still are, yet none of them stands a chance measured next to any of the '85 Bears when it comes to the love and adoration department.
Briggs is a tackling machine, but Wilber Marshall scared the bejesus out of quarterbacks when he blitzed. Never mind the fact that Briggs has made five Pro Bowls – and counting – and Marshall only made three, one of them in Washington.
Given a choice, too many Bears fans would rather have Marshall.
Booker may be the only wideout in team annals to catch 100 passes in a season, but did you ever see anyone run a fly pattern faster than Willie Gault? Booker caught 329 passes in 82 games as a Bear, while Gault only caught 184 passes in 76 games.
Given a choice, too many Bears fans believe Gault to have been the better weapon.
Gould is great, but that Kevin Butler sure had some leg. Gould is so much more accurate than Butler ever was, kicking field goals at an 86-percent clip, as opposed to Butler's 73-percent conversion rate.
Given a choice, too many Bears fans would opt for Butler in crunch time.
"I like the fact that the ‘85 Bears remain relevant in Chicago sports fans' scrapbook," says Fred Mitchell of the Chicago Tribune.
In 1985, Mitchell was covering the Cubs for the Trib, but he helped the paper cover the Bears during the postseason.
"Many of those players remain in the Chicago area," he says, "and they are front-and-center for all to see and hear. Their style of play and bravado 25 years ago still resonate in today's game. Until proven otherwise, the ‘85 Bears are still the standard of excellence in our city."
This is especially true when it comes to the game's most important position, as McMahon is the only signal caller to deliver a Super Bowl title to Chicago and his iconic status seems to grow with each passing day. The hair, the sunglasses, the headbands – his ability to throw the football was exceeded only by his quirkiness when not under center.
However, in 66 games for the Bears, his 80.4 passer rating was far from scintillating. His touchdown-to-interception ratio of 67-to-56 didn't get him anywhere near the Hall of Fame. He completed just 57.8 percent of his passes in 15 seasons.
McMahon's brittle body only allowed him to start 11 of 16 games in '85. He completed 178 of 313 passes (56.9 percent) for 2,392 yards with 15 TDs and 11 INTs. His lack of mobility in the pocket contributed to him getting sacked 26 times. But because seemingly the rest of the team went to Hawaii, and his 11-0 record as a starter was hard to ignore, McMahon made his one Pro Bowl appearance that year.
Compare that to Rex Grossman, who, like McMahon, was ridiculously good in college – Grossman at Florida; McMahon at BYU – and, like McMahon, was a first-round pick and, like McMahon, got the Bears to the Super Bowl in his fourth campaign with the team.
Grossman may have been injury-prone before 2006, but he started all 16 games that season. He completed 262 of 480 passes (54.2 percent) for 3,193 yards with 23 TDs and 20 INTs. He was sacked only 21 times.
While McMahon was made out to be the hero in 1985, Grossman was made out to be the villain in 2006. The Bears won because of McMahon. The Bears won in spite of Grossman. Fans begged for McMahon to be healthy enough to play. Fans begged for Grossman to be benched in favor of Brian Griese.
McMahon never played more than 12 games in any season the rest of his career, bouncing around from the Chargers to the Eagles to the Vikings (a division rival!) to the Cardinals to the Packers (another division rival!) before calling it a career in 1996. Grossman is on his second post-Bears life, now backing up Donovan McNabb in Washington after backing up Matt Schaub in Houston the year before.
McMahon couldn't pick up a dinner check in Chicago if he tried. Grossman, on the other hand, runs the risk of being shoved into a 600-degree pizza oven if he so much as changes planes at O'Hare.
The Bears have had Pro Bowlers on both sides of the ball – don't forget special teams, too – since 1985, and they've also had some colorful characters, but never have the on-the-field and off-the-field qualities intersected so beautifully as they did that magical year, when Back to the Future topped the box office and Duran Duran topped the charts.
"People need to let it go," says Laurence Holmes of WSCR 670 The Score. "The only problem is that there hasn't been a Bears team since that fills the void, and with each generation of Bears fan born, the legend of this great team morphs into mythology."
In 1985, Holmes was 10 years old.
"It still amazes me that the memory of the '85 Bears still lingers in the mind of the Chicago sports fan," he says. "Because of their success, the team became a cultural phenomenon. Unfortunately, people base their football identity on that team. It is the basis for which all other Bears teams are compared. It's an unfair reference point for any other team that follows because it's a romanticized standard."
Present-day Bears coach Lovie Smith is smart enough to satisfy all the Grabowskis out there, remembering Chicago's rich football tradition when afforded the opportunity, even if he has perhaps been held to an impossible measuring stick since taking the job in 2004.
"I don't think you can ever move on from your history," says Smith. "It will always be a part of us. It's OK to have the history there, but you just have to concentrate on what's happening in the present, and that's what we're doing."
Whatever the Bourbon Street bartenders served on January 26, 1986, it was strong enough to intoxicate an entire legion of Bears fans to an unprecedented state of pigskin euphoria.
But they've been hung over for 25 years.
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John Crist is the Publisher of BearReport.com, a Heisman Trophy voter and a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.
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