For Rich Cohen and millions of other fans, the 1985 Chicago Bears were more than a football team: they were the greatest football team ever—a gang of colorful nuts, dancing and pounding their way to victory. They won a Super Bowl and saved a city.
It was not just that the Monsters of the Midway won, but how they did it. On offense, there was high-stepping running back Walter Payton and Punky QB Jim McMahon, who had a knack for pissing off Coach Mike Ditka as he made his way to the end zone. On defense, there was the 46: a revolutionary, quarterback-concussing scheme cooked up by Buddy Ryan and ruthlessly implemented by Hall of Famers such as Dan “Danimal” Hampton and “Samurai” Mike Singletary. On the sidelines, in the locker rooms, and in bars, there was the never-ending soap opera: the coach and the quarterback bickering on TV, Ditka and Ryan nearly coming to blows in the Orange Bowl, the players recording the “Super Bowl Shuffle” video the morning after the season’s only loss.
Cohen tracked down the coaches and players from this iconic team and asked them everything he has always wanted to know: What’s it like to win? What’s it like to lose? Do you really hate the guys on the other side? Were you ever scared? What do you think as you lie broken on the field? How do you go on after you have lived your dream but life has not ended?
The result is Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football, a portrait not merely of a team but of a city and a game: its history, its future, its fallen men, its immortal heroes. But mostly it’s about being a fan—about loving too much. This is a book about America at its most nonsensical, delirious, and joyful.
An Amazon Best Book of the Month, November 2013: Monsters: The 1985 Chicago Bears and the Wild Heart of Football is a touching portrait of what is arguably one of the best--and most colorful--football teams ever. But Rich Cohen, better known as an essayist and editor than a sports writer, brings together an oral history of the Bears (featuring many well-known football figures, including Coach Mike Ditka), the evolution of the game and the league, and glimpses of his own childhood growing up in Chicago into a seamless narrative. Monsters is one of those rare books that transcends its topic without surrendering its enthusiasm for it. Cohen's perspective is both cogent and ambivalent. For example, he describes the quaterback as "a man in pain." He writes, "Via his suffering, we witness our own suffering at a safe remove. We eat chips and drink beer as he's lacerated, stepped on, stomped, taunted, concussed." Monsters is the rare sports book you can recommend to a non-fan as well as the biggest die hard. Really, you could recommend it to anyone who would enjoy a beautifully written, deeply human story. --Kevin Nguyen