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Bears Wed Sep 03 2014

Review: We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears

WeAreTheBears.jpg Everyone has a Bears story -- everyone. It doesn't matter which generation you're from or how far away you've previously lived before moving here to take that improv class. Odds are, you have a Bears story.

It's also likely you've read a book or two about the Bears somewhere down the line, written by someone who also shares the same memories you have about our beloved Monsters of the Midway. Certainly a lot has been said of this iconic franchise by those who have witnessed the highs and lows from the press box, but not often do we read the accounts from the men themselves. We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears offers just that.

Written by Richard Whittingham, who has authored more than 30 books, including the award-winning What a Game They Played, We Are the Bears! takes fans throughout the decades of success and failure, characters and icons, without a filter.

Kicking off the journey is a foreword by Mike Singletary, who recollects what it was like growing up in Houston as the youngest child in a house of 10. Singletary tells his story of being challenged by his mother about life itself and what it means to be a man, which helped mold him to become one of the most feared linebackers of his era.

The foreword sets the tone for how the rest of the book is read -- often raw with real-life recollections of strife and inner monologue that would make Sigmund Freud drool were he alive to read it. These players took their bodies to the limit to play a sport so brutal, it's a wonder most of these stories are still in their respective memory bank. Nevertheless, the passion for the game is translated throughout, as well as the bonds that were created with teammates and even rivals. You'll find yourself halfway through the 274 pages in a minute, simply just to see what is said next.

One of the best analogies comes in the Introduction from veteran Bears scribe John "Moon" Mullin, quoting the character Rene Belloq, a French archaeologist from the movie Raiders of the Lost Ark: "Indiana, we are simply passing through history...This -- this is history."

Mullin points out that the reader is in fact holding history in the palm of his or her hand, with accounts, some never-heard-before, from "The Galloping Ghost" to "Da Coach."

The chapters are broken up into sections where players throughout the years are quoted, starting with "Joining the Bears" in chapter one. The recollections range from nearly a century ago in a rebirth of identity after the first world war...

"The Bears team was the natural place for me to go. When the fellows came back from World War I, there was a lot of activity in pro and semipro football around the Midwest."
-- Joey Sternaman

...to a brash new era filled with unpredictability.

"When the Bears drafted me in 1982, my happiest feeling at first was that I wasn't going with the Colts in Baltimore."
-- Jim McMahon

Peppered throughout the pages are pictures of Bears players and coaches -- some stock images from the franchise, others from news clippings -- each reminding us of eras' past and fashion choices (Ditka's mustache and shades as well as Paddy Driscoll's linen pants pulled up to his armpits).

There are affectionate recollections of Sweetness (everyone loved Walter Payton) and not-so-fond quotes about a certain cantankerous coach (not everyone loved Mike Ditka). Memories of playing in Wrigley Field and even a chapter which will satisfy the biggest of Bears meatball: "Enemies Remembered."

"The thing about the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers was this intense rivalry. No one ever got too cute when we met. It was if you took two guys and said, "Look, I'm going to stand you up in the middle of this ring, and I want you to just beat each other, and whoever's left standing at the end wins."
-- Doug Buffone

The championships are remembered by those who respectively played and coached in each game, which includes the events and emotions that led to each game. Players also remember former teammates such as Gale Sayers on Brian Piccolo or Sid Luckman on Bronko Nagurski.

So many great memories are told throughout, and at times you might feel a rush of adrenaline, especially within the sections that spark memories from when you were a kid. It's history in the palm of your hands as told by those who lived it. Not your normal format of recollected stories on printed paper -- then again, these weren't the most normal of individuals.

We Are the Bears!: The Oral History of the Chicago Bears is available for just $14.95 from Triumph Books.

 

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