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Memories: How Dad and I Ended Up at the '86 Super Bowl Watching the Greatest Defense of All Time

Chicago Bears legend Walter Payton. (Credit: Wikimedia commons)

My father and I weren’t always close, but part of the reason for that was after my parents divorced when I was a young 'un, my mom, my siblings and I moved from Chicago to New York City. Dad stayed behind to continue his successful career. It’s hard to be close when you live thousands of miles away.

But I spent my first nine years in Chi-Town and have nothing but wonderful memories. Some of those memories involve sports: my first baseball game at leafy Wrigley Field, my first football game at frigid Soldier Field, both with my dad, my brother and sister.

Long after I had moved away, I remained a fan of the hapless NFL Chicago Bears, MLB Cubs, and NBA Bulls. Mostly such fandom led to yearly let-downs, but in 1985, I was a young college student and noticed that Da Bears suddenly had a team worth watching—you had Jim McMahon at QB, Walter "Sweetness" Payton at running back—one of the all-time greats—and a defense that looked formidable.

I was talking to Pops one day on the phone, and as all men know, when things get awkward you start talking sports. “Ya know,” I said cockily, not even really believing what I was saying but full of youthful bravado, “the Bears are going to the Super Bowl—and they’re going to win it.” 

He scoffed. I don’t remember his exact words, but it was something along the lines of, “Yeah, right, Bob, sure. I’d even take you to it if that ever happens.”

Months went by, but as they did, the Bears put together one of the greatest seasons in NFL history, marred only by one loss to the *$&$*# Miami Dolphins—a defeat that still angers me to this day. The defense was the best of all time—no, Ravens fans, you’ve had some good Ds, but you‘ve never had the likes of the gnarly Dan Hampton, Richard Dent, safety Gary Fencik, wide-eyed middle-linebacker Mike Singletary, and behemoth Refrigerator Perry all on one team. A team coached by the Great One, Mike Ditka, with Buddy Ryan’s defensive genius backing him up.

They were so damn cocky they made a Super Bowl video before the regular season was even over. Gotta love it.

 

Being a college kid, I reveled in their success and gloated about it with my friends to the point where they wanted to slap me. Despite the drastic Dolphins loss, the Bears kept getting better and better and opposing offenses looked scared to play them. They absolutely demolished their opponents in the playoffs and won a date to Super Bowl XX in New Orleans.

It was then I remembered… Wait, didn’t I bet my dad? But that was just an awkward phone call, surely he didn’t mean it. One day we were speaking and I said in my best bro dude voice, “How ‘bout them Bears? Looking pretty good, eh?”

“Yeah, pretty solid,” he answered. Or something like that. There was a long pause.

“Guess we’re going to the Big Game.”

You could have knocked me over with a feather. Sure enough, he lived up to his word, and it wasn’t long before we were on a plane to Nawlins and sitting in the Super Dome watching one of the great a**-kickings you’ll ever see in a Super Bowl as my Bears steamrolled the New England Patriots 46-10.

After the game, we strolled the very rowdy Bourbon Street, and we even popped into a club so he could show me one of his true loves—live jazz.

Like many men from that era, Pops wasn’t into intimacy or sitting around talking about feelings or searching for his inner self. But what I learned that day was that he was a fine man, a man of his word, a man who worked hard and who in so many ways deserved to be looked up to.

Until he passed last fall, that trip was the greatest bond between us, and I will never forget it.

My son knows the story, and together we watched the 2007 tragedy that was the Bears' loss to the stupid Colts in Super Bowl XLI. He was at a flea market last year and came across this, and he bought it for me. 

I cherish it. Thanks, Pops, and now thanks, Son. Happy Father's Day.


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