Thirty years ago today, the Chicago Bears undertook an epic self-coronation, romping through Super Bowl XX in New Orleans 46-10. The victory was, at the time, the most lopsided in Super Bowl history, and remains one of the cornerstone ass-kickings in the history of America's big game. You can watch it in its total splendor (with commercials!) here:
But that game, and that team, also created a shadow that blankets the franchise. Come back with me 10 years, for instance, to Week 2 of 2005, when the Bears smashed Detroit 38-6.
After the game I gleefully tuned in to hear Doug & O.B. reflect on a rare instance of unbridled Bears-driven brutality. The 32-point win was the team's largest since 1993, and everyone who cared about the Bears was riding high on a defense that was soon to carry us all on one of the franchise's great two-year stretches.
We wanted to talk about Mike Brown and Urlacher and Tommie Harris and Lance Briggs and all the rest. Instead, we had to hear about '85.
"Can this D be as good as the '85 Bears?" every caller asked in some form or another. It was maddening. We just whipped a division rival and you want to talk about a team from 20 years ago?
Finally, O'Bradovich jumped in.
"We're always going to compare any good Bears defense to the '85 team, in the same way that every good Bears defense used to be compared to us," O'Bradovich said, referring to the 1963 championship Bears team of which he was a part.
"All you used to hear was 'They didn't play as well as the '63 team,' and 'Why can't they be more like the '63 team.' Finally the guys got so fed up that they went and won their own damn championship, and now it's all about the '85 guys. That's how it goes."
This was a salient point from ol' O.B., but his mention of the 1963 team was fitting in another way, because to Bears fans under 30 years old, the reverence bestowed upon the Super Bowl Shufflers of yore is akin to Baby Boomers' endless droning about the majesty of the 1960s. It's that whole, "You wouldn't know, man. You weren't there."
The Bears are not the only sports franchise in which a bygone era looms over the present. KG's Celtics won in the shadow of Russell & Bird, and Jeter's Yankees never shined historically like the M&M Boys or Murderer's Row.
But those were entire ERAS, sometimes multiple ones. The '85 Bears are doomed by their moniker: a one-shot deal, freezing a franchise like Han in carbonite.
That single season is the franchise's greatest success and yet has become, in a way, its greatest failure. Whether we hold 1985 sacred or just want it to go away, we are all frozen. Both of our local papers are celebrating the anniversary today. The Tribune re-published Bernie Lincicome's day-after column, and the Sun-Times one-upped them by re-publishing the whole damn front page.