Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and The Wild Heart of Football by Rich Cohen (5 out of 5)
I’m a little bit of a huge Chicago Bears fan, so of course I was going to read this book posthaste. Except posthaste, with life spinning like a bohemian top around me, meant that it took almost a week. But I did finish it, and much like my beloved Bears, and the 1985 bunch in particular, it was well worth the wait.
I can’t say that I’ve read a more enjoyable football book since, well, ironically, Jim McMahon’s autobiography. And yes, I LOVE Jim McMahon- still, so I am a bit biased. I have read many other books about other teams, but this one, well, it’s my heart beating. I loved Walter Payton’s book Never Die Easy. but due to the death of Sweetness, I was crying by the end. It’s no mystery that the part of this book that addresses Payton’s death also found me in tears. A good portion of this book also found me laughing aloud. These bitches were, and those who are still around today, are crazy.
Rich Cohen found coaches, players, and members of the Chicago Bears inner circle and interviewed them. He asked them all of the things he always wondered about and what multitudes of rabid Bear fans wanted to know. My favorite part of the book? Definitely McMahon and Ditka’s remembrances. The saddest part is definitely about Walter Payton. Cohen talks about the history and the misery of the Chicago Bears’ overall record up until 1985, and the nuclear explosion of personalities that made up this one-of-a-kind football team. The mysterious “46” defense is discussed in great detail (mysterious because this 12-year old had no fucking clue what it meant then). Also discussed in great detail is the simmering cauldron of animosity between Ditka and Buddy Ryan. You get your share of William “The Fridge” Perry, Willie Gault, Otis Wilson, Mike Singletary, Dave Duerson (another tragic end), Dan Hampton, and that fig newton substitute Steve McMichael, among others. No stone- or Bear- is left unturned.
What I really enjoyed is that you can tell Rich Cohen isn’t just some dude who wants to write a sports biography. It’s clear from the first page that he’s a die-hard Bears fan, and he writes with the air of a man who knows his football, but more importantly, looks at the team and the dynamics behind that team, like a rabid fan. There are the jabs at Green Bay, but there is also a number of highly emotional moments, such as the final firing of Ditka, in which Cohen sat down on the sidewalk and cried like a baby. I know how that is. Not only did I do that when Payton died, but also when McMahon got traded, when Ditka got canned, when Duerson died two years ago. Once a fan, always a fan. Even if that player is long gone, they’re still a part of the fabric of that everlasting team. The 1985 Bears and that Monsters of The Midway defense, will not easily be forgotten through futures of football fans, although it may seem that way at times. Much is made of the fact that the Bears didn’t repeat their Super Bowl finish since then, but the NFL is a tough mistress to heed, and it’s not always possible. Lightning does often strike in an absinthe bottle, and that certainly was the case with the 1985 Bears. Long may they reign.