Tuesday, January 26th, 2016

Super Bowl XX: 30 Years Later

We spent the morning and a substantial portion of the afternoon at my grandparents' house that Sunday. On a typical visit, I would be playing board games or attempting to sound like a British New Wave musician by playing their tiny Casio keyboard. But that day, I was glued to the television. Their television didn't have a remote control, or "zapper" as they lovingly used to call them, so I spent the day kneeling in front of the screen manually cranking the dial. Station after station offered complete Chicago Bears coverage. Mike Ditka was interviewed on this station, Walter Payton over there, and Jim McMahon was somewhere else. I even had someone's 45 of the Super Bowl Shuffle in heavy rotation on their ancient turntable.

That was Sunday, January 26, 1986.

The Chicago Bears concluded the 1985 regular season with a 15-1 record. After stringing together 12 victories to open the season, their lone defeat came at the hands of the Miami Dolphins on an embarrassing Monday night in south Florida. They proceeded to storm through the playoffs unblemished and did so without yielding a single point. With the NFC playoffs going through Soldier Field, the Bears shutout the New York Giants (21-0) in the Divisional Round and Los Angeles Rams (24-0) in the NFC Championship. Their final step was to line up against the AFC Champions, the New England Patriots, in Super Bowl XX. The Bears defeated the Patriots at Soldier Field, 20-7, during the second week of the season.

At the time, I was in seventh grade. Up until that point, none of the five major Chicago sports teams competed in a championship game or series during my lifetime. (Despite winning Soccer Bowl '81 and '84, I am not counting the Chicago Sting as a major team.) The Blackhawks lost in the 1973 Stanley Cup Finals to the Montreal Canadiens a few months before I was born. The White Sox made the ALCS in 1983 and lost to the Baltimore Orioles, and the Cubs met a similar fate against the San Diego Padres in the 1984 NLCS. The Bears managed to reach the NFC Championship Game during the 1984 season, but they were blanked by the San Francisco 49ers (23-0).

I told my parents that I wanted to make sure we were home in time to watch the entire game. On the drive home, we heard the national anthem and the start of the game coverage. My dad said we would only miss the first few minutes. What could happen in the first few minutes of a football game, right? The Patriots kicked off and the Bears received. On the second play of the game, Jim McMahon handed the ball to Walter Payton, he fumbled and the Patriots recovered. The Patriots threw three incomplete passes then they kicked a field goal. New England grabbed an early 3-0 lead. We pulled into the garage and the Bears were losing barely one minute into the game. Not exactly how I wanted to start watching the game.

About two weeks before the Super Bowl, we bought a new television. It was a 44-inch Mitsubishi big screen, and I loved it. That's about as close as we came to living in 1980s excess. Super Bowl XX was the first major sporting event that I would watch on that television. When I stepped into the house, I sprinted for our atrocious black and white couch, found the remote and flipped on NBC. There they were. The Chicago Bears were in the Super Bowl. Sadly, they were already losing.

But something happened. The Bears began to dominate.

Kevin Butler kicked a field goal to tie the game 3-3. Then again to make it 6-3. The Bears would never trail again. Matt Suhey scored, and once again, Butler added the extra point. The first quarter ended with the Bears leading 13-3.

In the second quarter, the Bears continued to roll. Jim McMahon scored and Butler kicked again to extend the lead to 20-3. Butler added one more field goal before the half. At halftime, the Bears led the Patriots 23-3.

Do you have a favorite Up With People joke? Insert it here. They performed at halftime.

As the game resumed, so did the Bears scoring. McMahon scored again with a PAT from Butler to make it a 30-3 game. Reggie Phillips scored on a pick-six. With another PAT, the Bears led 37-3. William Perry scored and a Butler kick extended the lead to 44-3. To this day, Mike Ditka still regrets not giving Walter Payton the ball on that play.

During the fourth quarter, the New England Patriots found a bit of offense. Irving Fryar caught a TD pass, they added a kick and made it a 44-10 game. The Bears ended the scoring by adding a safety to make the final 46-10.

Looking back, I'm surprised I didn't break my parents' couch. I jumped up and down on that thing all night long. With each score, I grew louder and louder. Following that game, my mom bought me a Super Bowl XX mug. I placed it on the desk in my bedroom to hold pencils and pens. I promised I would retire that mug once the Bears won the Super Bowl again. Sadly, that mug is still in use. That mug travelled with me to college and every professional office I've worked in since. The closest that mug came to retirement was when they made an appearance in Super Bowl XLI, but fell victim to the Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.

Thirty years later, Super Bowl 50 (they dropped the Roman numerals for this one... imagine Super Bowl L) is less than two weeks away. The Carolina Panthers (15-1) will face the Denver Broncos (12-4) on Friday, February 7. Former Bears linebacker, Ron Rivera, is the head coach of the Panthers. Rivera was only in his second professional season when the Bears won Super Bowl XX. During the 2015 season, he guided the Panthers to 14 straight wins to open the season until they lost to the Atlanta Falcons (20-13).

If you have four hours to kill, you can watch the entire NBC broadcast of Super Bowl XX right here (complete with old commercials).

Photos: Sports Illustrated, Sports Mockery and Houston Chronicle

Note: This is an update to my 25th anniversary blog from 2011.

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