It's great to be in New England these days for one main reason . No, not these guys. It's because all Pats fans are suddenly Bears fans. And who am I to complain?
I've been a fan of the Monsters of Midway since I was a young pup and somehow became fascinated with a whispy young back named Walter Payton. I think I'd seen "Brian's Song" with my brothers one night and, after I realized it is ok for guys to cry, I decided I loved a team with that kind of heart and a runner with that kind of grace and speed. I had it in #34.
I loved the Bears through some trying times. Can you say Bob Avellini, Vince Evans, and Mike Phipps at QB? A coach that let players leave the field early to make some personal phone calls and had Ken Margerum as a wideout and Gary Fencick as the lone defensive standout? It was bad.
In 82, things picked up. A new coach arrived, a tough-talker who once roamed Soldier's Field when they were the Monsters - Mike Ditka. He came into minicamp and said "The good news is, our goal is to win the division, conference and super bowl. The bad news is, as I look out at you all, many of you won't be here to see it." And he had a hotshot rookie quarterback, Jim McMahon.
Still, they finished the season 3-6. So much for changes.
But they were .500 the next year, and, in '84 Walter broke Jim Brown's single-season rushing record and they hit the playoffs for the first time in years.
And then came 1985. What 15-year-old wouldn't want the team they'd loved for years to suddenly propel itself into a dominant power. Only one loss, the best defense EVER, and the Super Bowl Shuffle. I am still ticked at Ditka for not giving Walter a Super Bowl TD (handing it instead to that overweight lineman named Perry because the TV loved him). But they throttled the Pats (sorry locals) and were World Champs again. Good, good times.
Then came the Tomczak era, some good seasons but no more rings, the strike, Walter's retirement, the loss of Ditka, and a series of pretty unremarkable years.
Thanks, I think, to the return of a glory days-style defense in 2005, the Bears are back. I get thrills and chills like that 15-year-old again with names like Urlacher, Tillman, Brown and Tank Johnson, what's not to like? Jones and Benson are no Payton but they get it done. I'm not as down on Rex as most, but I do like Griese more (having seem him play in college, I think he's got talents) and you can't say many bad things about Muhsin and Des Clark.
So we're underdogs this time, giving 7. That's probably fair. The AFC is dominant and the Colts are a tough, tough team to beat.
Could it happen? Of course it could happen. The Bears have been defying expecations all year. On this given Sunday, I'll sure be wearing my Bear colors - and I think some of my friends and neighbors will be joining in in rooting for the return of the Monsters.