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The Emotional Bowl Goes To Chicago
Paul Zimmerman
September 22, 1986
Defensive demigod Buddy Ryan came back into town with the Eagles, but the Bears prevailed
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September 22, 1986

The Emotional Bowl Goes To Chicago

Defensive demigod Buddy Ryan came back into town with the Eagles, but the Bears prevailed

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The Chicago Bears wanted to beat Buddy Ryan badly. They wanted to run up a score on their old defensive coach, to humiliate his Philadelphia Eagles, to make a joke out of it. Some of the players who were closest to him during his eight years with the Bears wanted it most of all.

"We're his children," said free safety Gary Fencik, who had been with Ryan throughout the coach's tenure with Chicago and had been as close to him as any player. "We wanted to win 60 to nothing...to show off for Dad."

It's hard for outsiders to understand this mixture of pride and aggression and, yes, even love that goes on in the strange, insulated little world—"the cocoon," Fencik calls it—that is inhabited by an assistant coach and his players.

When the game was over, after the Eagles had taken the Bears into overtime, a place no one seriously expected them to be, after the Bears had squeezed out their 13-10 victory on the fumble by a rookie kick returner and the dynamic running of Walter Payton, after Ryan had tried to face the postgame TV lights and cameras, and had broken down, they streamed over, his old players, his children. They came to bid him well, to tell him how courageously his Eagles had played, to put their arms around him and wish him luck for the season.

Turgenev should have been there with a working press credential pinned to his lapel. Fathers and Sons.

Mike Singletary was the first man on the scene—Singletary, whom Ryan had coaxed and browbeaten into becoming the best middle linebacker in the game. He was limping on an ankle that had been twisted when one of the Eagles rolled on it in the last quarter.

"I saw Buddy as soon as he came off the field," Singletary said. "I gave him a hug. I told him, 'Good luck and God bless you, take care of yourself.' "

Doug Plank was waiting for Ryan in the Eagles' locker room. He had spent the game on the Eagles' sideline, another ironic touch in a week that was full of them. Plank, a Bears safetyman and the heart and soul of their defense for eight years—the 46 Defense was even named for his jersey number—was on the opposing bench.

"It's the first time I've come back to Chicago for a game," said Plank, who lives in Columbus, Ohio. "I've only called the Bears one time to ask for tickets. That was the exhibition game in South Bend last month. I thought it would be nice to take my wife to it, but when I called them and tried to get a pair of tickets, their reply was basically, 'Wait in line.' So I didn't bother.

"I called Buddy a week or so ago to wish him luck. He said, 'I'll get you a sideline pass.' I told him I'd feel kind of awkward and he said, 'We're the team that's got a defense named after you, not them.' "

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