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Da Bears!

Da Bears! by Steve Delsohn
Sep 06, 2011 | 280 Pages
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  • Paperback $14.00

    Sep 06, 2011 | 280 Pages

  • Ebook $5.99

    Sep 28, 2010 | 304 Pages

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“Wonderfully written and deftly reported.”  
—Jeff Pearlman,

“This is a good read for football fans, a great read for Bears fans.”
—The Dallas Morning News 

“The details of the Ditka-Ryan imbroglio are hilarious in hindsight—not so much at the time—and the insight offered into the team’s other dominant personalities (Walter Payton, Richard Dent, Mike Singletary) are also enlightening. Relying primarily on interviews with key participants and secondary sources, Delsohn gives Da Bears a fine tribute on the twenty-fifth anniversary of their triumph.”

From the Hardcover edition.

Author Q&A

with Steve Delsohn, author of
How the 1985 Monsters of the Midway Became the Greatest Team in NFL History

♦ What are some of your favorite memories of the Chicago Bears? Growing up in the Windy City, were you able to attend any of the Bears’ home games?
As a kid, my two favorite players were Dick Butkus and Gale Sayers, who were as good as anybody in the league at their positions, although the Bears teams they played on usually lost. Sayers was an electric, silky smooth running back whose career ended prematurely because of injuries. Butkus was simply the greatest, toughest middle linebacker who ever lived. I did get to go to Bears game while growing up there, but most of the time I was working as a vendor. And, man, was it cold at those games once winter set in.
♦ As an avid Bears fan, what were you most surprised to learn while researching the book?
What surprised me the most was the depth of the hostility between Mike Ditka and Buddy Ryan. I knew they were never buddies, but I didn’t know they veered between ignoring each other to cursing each other, with not a whole lot of interaction in between. I was also surprised at how openly Ryan disrespected Ditka when Ryan was alone with his defensive players. That was the kind of behavior that could get a guy fired, but Ryan left right after the Super Bowl anyway, so Ditka never had the chance to give him the ax.
♦ What was it like interviewing Ditka, McMahon, and other great members of the ’85 team?
For me it was a blast.  I loved that ’85 Bears team just like everyone else in Chicago did. And particularly Ditka and McMahon, since in my mind they were the single two biggest reasons the Bears won it all that year. As for interviewing them, they both seemed incapable of ducking an answer, especially McMahon, who apparently has no censor at all.
♦ In the book, you describe the Bears’ legendary defense that, in many ways, defined the team. What was it that made that defense so effective? Do you think the 46 defense would work in the NFL today?
The 46 was brilliant at disguising the pressure it brought, so quarterbacks lived in fear and uncertainty. It also figured out ways to create one-on-one blocking matchups, rather than double teams, and with the talent the Bears had, they were going to win most one-on-one battles. As for succeeding today, there are still teams that use some derivative of the 46. But nobody has the raw talent to run it as effectively as the ’85 Bears did.
♦ Do you think any members of the team regretted the decision to make the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video?
No, but only because they won it all. Had they not won the Super Bowl, they would still be remembered as the biggest boneheads of all-time.
♦ It’s no secret that Ditka and Buddy Ryan didn’t always see eye to eye.  Do you think that the Bears had success in spite of their disagreements or because of them?
I wouldn’t say they won because of their disagreements. But I do think the tension between Ryan and Ditka filtered down to the players, particularly during the week, and this raised their intensity at every practice, which could only have helped the Bears. On the other hand, as McMahon says in the book, the Bears had the best team in the league that season, so no matter how immature Ditka and Ryan could be, the Bears were still going to win consistently.
♦ What is the biggest misconception about the ’85 Bears?
That the defense carried that team. While the defense was ultimately spectacular, it wasn’t all that great the first month of the season, while the offense came out of the gate putting up major numbers. Then after the offense struggled at times in mid-season, it righted itself in the playoffs, finally giving the Bears the potent offense and defense that was so unfamiliar to Bears fans.
♦ What legacy did the ’85 Bears leave?  How do you think they influenced future NFL teams?
They had an enormous influence on sports marketing. From Ditka and McMahon and William Perry all the way down to the second-stringers, the ’85 Bears were all getting radio shows, endorsements, et cetera. That was highly unusual back then. The Bears also brought the NFL out of the doldrums, which is hard to believe today with the mega-success enjoyed by the country’s most popular sports league. But back in ’85, the NFL was coming off the 1982 players’ strike, the hangover from the strike, and the threat from the USFL, which was siphoning off some of its top players. TV ratings were down, the league office was anxious, and writers were pondering how to solve the malaise. Then the ’85 Bears barged onto the scene, and suddenly the league seemed fun and vital again.
♦ Why did you decide to write Da Bears!?  What do you hope readers will take away from the book?
I realized a couple of years ago that the 2010 season would mark the 25th anniversary of the ’85 Bears. So for one thing, I knew the book would have the right timing. I also loved that team, knew it would make a good story, and always wanted to write a book that was based in Chicago. As for what I’d like readers to take away from the book, I wasn’t aiming for anything heavy or profound. Above all, the ’85 Bears were fun, funny, and entertaining, and I hope that’s how the readers see the book.

From the Hardcover edition.

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