Overview: Before I say anything else, this book is awesome. This is coming from someone who is not a Chicago Bears fan and never before reading a book about the Bears. Rich Cohen takes you down a path of the history of football, which ultimately leads to the 1985 Chicago Bears and their dominating season which led to a Super Bowl championship. Maybe it was so interesting to me because I didn’t know much about the origins of the sport. Did you know that football basically started as a league of average people who were playing on factory teams? The learning experience combined with Cohen’s sarcastic writing style resulted in me not wanting to put the book down.
Cohen does an amazing job at building the back story of the coaches and players that made up the 1985 team. You also get a look into how the sport has evolved, and how different the game is played with the knowledge of things like brain damage caused from getting and delivering hits. Even if you aren’t a diehard football fan, I think the story of the 85 Bears is a story anyone can enjoy and value.
Lesson: There are quite a few things someone could take away from this one. For me, the one the resonated the most, was that football players just like anyone else will probably at some point face the end of one life chapter and have to enter a chapter that is entirely different. Playing football is a completely different world than the world of being a realtor. But everyone gets old, every human body wears down, and you cannot play football forever. I think most people have their own version of football, and everyone will struggle with the stark difference between the life with football and the life without.
Important Passages (Per Sean):
It was a peak moment in our lives and, though we did not realize it , a peak moment for them, too. These were young gods, as vivid as the astronauts in Tom Wolfe, as free as the cowboys in John Ford, gunslingers drinking rotgut and throwing dice, but it would not last. Before long , they would fall back to our world , rejoin the masses they left behind in tenth or twelfth grade.
So this is why people suffer through mediocre season after mediocre season, I thought. So this is what’s on the other side of all that losing. It’s not just the victory. It’s being among the winners, sinking the humdrum concerns of your life into a raucous crowd, being welcomed by the mob.
You don’t think about what it will mean when you’re forty. You just think , Whoa, I’m missing it! It’s panic. It’s like that bad dream you have when you’re a kid. It’s the day of the big test and you’re late for school.”
When people say I was great in my day, I say, No, I was just able to control my mind for those few seconds before impact. I never slowed down . I sped up . That’s what makes a hitter. Not size, not speed. It’s the ability to suppress your survival instincts.
America has become endless childhood, where any passion can take you pro.
Only two original franchises survive: the Chicago Bears and the Arizona Cardinals, who previously played as the St. Louis Cardinals, the Chicago Cardinals, and the Racine Cardinals, not because they were based in Racine, Wisconsin, but because the roster was made up of guys who hung out on Racine Street on Chicago’s South Side.
In the early years, most NFL teams played in baseball stadiums, and many took the name of the host team. Hence the Pittsburgh Pirates, who played in Forbes Field, and the New York Football Giants, who played in the Polo Grounds .
A coach was now able to operate from a position of omniscience , the position of a god, where he could linger over each move the way a chess master lingers, his hand resting on the rook, considering each consequence before committing.
We’re all going to get hurt and die. The only freedom is the freedom to choose how we respond.
People know this story from Brian’s Song, a movie about Sayers and Brian Piccolo, who shared the backfield in Chicago. Piccolo died of cancer in 1970. That movie— a story of rivalry, friendship, disease— is etched in the memory of a generation of fans.
Very few players make it to college, fewer still to the pros , and most of those, stars at every other level, flame out. You see them years later, pushing a broom or carrying boards at a construction site.
It was one of those trials that come in every life, a moment in which you know , just know, that if you weaken or lose focus, you’ll be washed away by malaise, slide into dissolute wandering.
In his relationship with his grandfather, McCaskey stands for my generation in our relationship to the tough old America: we inherited a country we did not build.
He’s you raised to the highest power, a kid who wished the same wish, only his came true.
“I like doing what I do now, which is pretty much whatever I want. Didn’t make a lot of money in the game , but I put four kids through college, so I did all right.”
He’d been so busy planning the future that he never noticed the dream country from every window of the bus.
As you grow up you become too tasteful to enjoy things that once filled you with pleasure. Past thirty, most of us become too smart for our own good.
It was the feeling you get on Sunday night after a long weekend times a billion. I looked out the window. What is this life? I asked myself. What does it mean? Why does every minute pull me away from everything I love?
“I miss being twenty -five years old and playing with my friends,” said Plank. “Now we’re scattered across the country and it’s all in the past. If you’re lucky enough to experience something that intense when you’re young, you pay for it the rest of your life.”
And is it better to accept the world as it is and be happy or to struggle and be miserable?