Da Bears, Past and Present
Nothing like spending New Year’s Eve shooting Brett Favre of the Packers kicking the crap out of the Bears…AGAIN. (Photo c by Scott Boehm)
“Ditka vs God in Golf.”
“I’d have to go wit God on dat one…but it would be close.”
—A skit from “Saturday Night Live.”
“Ditka vs JD in football photography.”
“Even blind…I’d have to go wit JD on dat one. But it would be real close.”
—A skit in my rec room trying to entertain my 18-month old son.
I grew up in suburban Chicago, loving da Bears. Couldn’t have cared less about baseball, da Cubs, da Sox or da goats. Didn’t give a rat’s patoot about Blackhawk hockey, when they played without helmuts and face guards. Liked the Bulls, but nothing could have compared to my love of…da Bears.
Once, my father took me to see da Bears play at Wrigley Field where we had seats behind home plate, which in those days was the south end zone. I saw Butkus, Sayers, Piccolo, Dikta and O’Bradovich play. I took a 8mm home movie camera with me and shot two rolls of film from my seat. Unfortunately, I have no idea where the film is today, although my brother “claims” the film is in his basement with all of the other family movies. I haven’t seen the film since…well, a long time ago.
Flash forward to…OK, this might give my age away…1978. I was working my first job at a suburban Chicago newspaper when I finally got to shoot my first home Chicago Bears game on the field. It was November 5th. They played the Seattle Seahawks.
They lost 31-29.
I couldn’t have cared less that they lost. I got to shoot the Chicago Bears on the field. I’ll never forget how thrilled and excited I was to see my pictures in the paper the next day.
Flash forward to…1984. I was still working at the paper, but I got a free-lance job to shoot every home and away Bears game. Someone actually paid me money to do this…work on my days off shooting da Bears. I was in heaven…until they lost the NFC Championship game to the 49ers in Candlestick Park.
Flash to…yes, 1985. For years, my wife made fun of me because I divided my pitiful single life between: the years before the Super Bowl…and…The Year The Bears Went To The Super Bowl.
Ditka, McMahon, Payton, The Fridge, Hampton, Mongo, Horne, Hilgy, Becker, Fencik. The Super Bowl Shuffle. McMahon shooting a moon to a TV helicopter. Don Pierson of the Chicago Tribune and I produced a best-selling book (OK…not a New York Times Best Seller…but a damn good seller around Chicago) on the ’85 Bears. I did publicity for the book on local TV including a interview on the NBC news at 5pm anchored by a dish named Deborah Norville and then a solo segment showing my pictures on a local ABC morning show hosted by someone named Oprah Winfrey.
Then a week in New Orleans that almost killed me and that spawned stories that will NEVER be revealed in public. A Bears win over the Patroits, 46-10.
While I was laying on my couch at home trying to recover after Super Bowl XX week, I flipped on the TV and watched the Challenger explode. So much for the fun of the Super Bowl. It all seemed pretty meaningless after that.
Flash forward to…let’s see…2006. I’m still on the sidelines shooting da Bears. But these aren’t Ditka’s Bears as much as the Chicago fans might wish them to be. They’re Lovie Smith’s Bears. Urlacher, Briggs, Kruetz, Jones, Benson, “Peanut,” and two starting quarterbacks: The “Good Rex” and the “Evil Rex.”
The “Evil” Rex Grossman trots off the field after throwing an interception against the Gren Bay Packers. (Photo c Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The “Good” Rex Grossman celebrates a defensive stop on the sidelines earlier in the 2006 season. (Photo c Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Yeah, baybee, that kid Rex Grossman, ye of Indiana high school football lore and the University of Florida.
Da 2006 Bears are 13-3. They have home field advantage throughout the playoffs. IF they get that far. And the Chicago fans…are as nuts as they were in 1985. For completely different reasons.
In 1985, we knew what we were getting. A smash-mouth, run the ball, defensive juggernaut. This year, we have no idea from game to game what we’re getting. Perhaps a great performance from the “Good Rex”…300 yards passing, 2 TD’s, no picks…or a dismal 1.3 or (YIPES!!!) 0.0 quarterback rating. A defense that looked like World Beaters the first five weeks…to a defense that gave back-up quarterback Tim Ratay of Tampa Bay (WHO???) a chance to beat them and make the Hall of Fame.
It’s NFL Playoff Week 2, gang. Who will show up to play for the Chicago Bears?
One thing is for sure…I’ll show up this Sunday, on the sidelines, where I have been on Bears home fall Sunday’s since 1978. Am I a fan? Yes indeed. Am I an impartial journalist? You better believe it. When the Bears look good, the photos will show it. When they stink…the photos will show it. They’ve stunk for a long time. Check the Getty archive to see the bad…and the good.
Bears 62…Seahawks, tree.
Chicago Bears fans hope that the fickle pigeon of fate doesn’t dump on their season this week in the first playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks. (photo c Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)