Being a fan of the Chicago Bears is serious business. The stakes can get so high that sometimes even diehards can’t separate fact from fiction, as evidenced in 2014 when supporters fell for an article in the satirical newspaper, The Onion, and began demanding that the team find a new quarterback. Online outrage aside, folks in the Windy City just want what’s best for their club.
The franchise was born in 1920 as the Decatur Staleys and won its first championship the following year. Under the guidance of George Halas, the team joined the American Professional Football Association, a federation that would evolve into the National Football League that we know today. If there was something that “Papa Bear” couldn’t do, then no one associated with the organization knew anything about it. Over the course of 63 years with the club, Halas had a hand in just about every aspect of the franchise’s operations, whether as a player, owner, head coach or general manager. Before he stopped patrolling the sidelines in ‘68, Halas had led the Bears to an incredible seven league titles, as well as one APFA championship.
At the ‘65 draft, Chicago acquired a pair of players who would go on to become cornerstones for the franchise: running back Gale Sayers and linebacker Dick Butkus. Sayers impressed immediately on his way to a record 22 touchdowns in his rookie season, while Butkus brought the bite back to the defense. However, the two surefire Hall of Famers just weren’t enough in a team-centric sport, and the Bears never got a whiff of the playoffs with the two on their roster. The task of returning a once-proud franchise to the postseason fell on the shoulders of tailback Walter Payton, who arrived in ‘75. “Sweetness” was exactly what the Bears needed, and Chicago began to storm back.
Former tight end Mike Ditka assumed the head coaching reins in ‘82, and soon, Chicago became known as “Da Bears.” The mustachioed spitfire guided the club to their first playoffs win in 21 years in ‘84, and a year later, led the franchise on the infamous “Super Bowl Shuffle.” The world championship in ‘85 was the crown jewel of Ditka’s tenure, but not to be forgotten is the string of five straight NFC Central divisional titles, or that by ‘87, “Da Bears” had posted four consecutive winning campaigns for the first time since ‘51.
Since 1971, the club has claimed Soldier Field as its home turf. A new version of the venerated coliseum debuted in ‘03, but the name remained the same, as did the fan commitment to cheering on the “Monsters of the Midway.” As their franchise was the first in league history to post 600 victories, Bears diehards have high expectations, to say the least. Headed into the ‘06 season, it was only those in Chicago who expected the campaign to end on the Super Bowl stage. While the title slipped through their fingers, optimism continues to whip through the streets of the Windy City. “Stand up, Bear down” has become a rallying cry of sorts, and befitting their fierce moniker, fans are hungry for another shot at the title.