Reporting Dan Bernstein
I can’t do it.
Every however-many years or so, the party machine cranks up another nostalgia festival for the 1985 Bears, and their wonderful cast of football characters telling stories of how they ran roughshod over the NFL, and restored honor to a proud city.
It’s happening again this weekend with an expensive gathering at the Arie Crown Theater.
Didn’t the 20th anniversary celebration happen, like, yesterday?
When even I can’t feign interest in this, it says something.
I was a high-school junior that season, and my family had season tickets. I even went to exhibition games. I stood in line to get Keith Van Horne’s autograph at Ford Pharmacy. I owned a VHS copy of the Super Bowl Shuffle. The horizontal “Black and Blues Brothers” poster of the offensive line hung over the desk in my bedroom – Stefan Humphries, Tom Andrews and Andy Frederick among those gazing down at me as I took notes in the margins of Othello.
But couldn’t we all use a break from the seemingly nonstop reunion tour?
They didn’t go anywhere. They have all been here. These parties are like recurring flare-ups of a painful, embarrassing skin condition.
Ditka is a ubiquitous, inescapable brand. His former players are talking on every radio station, all the time. The fact that there is not a local HD signal or a satellite channel doing 85 Bears talk 24/7 is amazing.
(Wait – I just raised the eyebrows of a program director. “Stay tuned for ‘The Henry Waechter Factor!’ Followed by ‘Fuller and Buford’, ‘Reggie Phillips’ Restaurant Reviews,’ and ‘Dennis Gentry Talks Movies and Car Repair.’”)
And, our desire to keep alive the outsized memories of an outsized team has too much of an impact on the way we view the Bears.
Lovie Smith’s team could win the Super Bowl, and the parade would pass by those grumbling about his sideline demeanor not reminding them of Ditka’s. It sounds ridiculous, but many of the calls for Bill Cowher are rooted in how well he fits the perceived archetype for a Bears coach.
Rather than use the 1985 Bears as an unrealistic, ongoing ideal, the lesson should be the opposite: they are not coming back to play. They will not return to make you feel as you did when you were younger.
Even that very group itself failed to recapture their own magic. What should speak loudest is that lesson: they could never live up to themselves. It is hugely unfair, then, to expect others to become them, just because the logo on the helmet is the same.
With every year that passes, I see beloved memories turning more and more into grotesque, Dickensian ghosts.