I have written before of my deep love for American football. Although that love began in the very early 1980s, it wasn’t really consummated until 1985. It was then that I discovered the Chicago Bears, and the two of us have had a rollercoaster romance ever since.
Up until 1985, I had followed the game without really picking a side (I did the same when I discovered football, cricket, rugby and Aussie Rules). That year, the Bears put together what was, arguably, the greatest season since the NFL began. At one point it looked as if they were going to go through the whole season unbeaten, and even at the end their record of 15 wins and only one loss was a record number of wins which would last for 23 years.
And 25 years ago today, the Bears won their first – and to date only – Super Bowl. They won 46-10 against the New England Patriots, which was at the time the greatest winning margin in history. I stayed up in our darkened sitting room to watch the game, only going to bed when ‘we’ were 44-3 ahead and victory was assured.
I can remember just about every detail of that game. Walter Payton, the great Chicago running back who died so tragically young, playing in his only Super Bowl and fumbling the ball on the first series of plays to gift the Patriots a field goal and a 3-0 lead. Jim McMahon, Chicago’s one great quarterback, with his tinted visor which most people thought was showmanship and was actually a necessity as a childhood eye injury means he cannot tolerate normal light levels (even today he wears sunglasses at all times). Richard Dent, the monster defensive end, achieving the unusual feat for a defenseman of being named Most Valuable Player as he brutalised Patriots quarterbacks Tony Eason and Steve Grogan out of the game.
And then there was William Perry. Known as ‘The Refridgarator’ (or just ‘The Fridge’) the giant first year defensive lineman with the equally gargantuan appetite had become a cult hero among fans around the world and the jubilation whenever he took the field on offense was deafening. And that was nothing compared to the moment when he rumbled over the line for the Bears’ final touchdown of the game.
There were other heroes on that Bears team, too many to name here. But I remember them all, as well as coach Mike Ditka, one of the very few men to be elected to the Hall of Fame as both a player and a coach.
It was a great moment in my life, especially as I missed my ‘other’ football team, Aston Villa, winning the European Cup in 1982. The Bears (and Villa) have been reassuringly rubbish ever since, but some matches are made for life.