of the adjective "ethnic" into a noun in itself refutes the great
American dream of the melting pot. Poles remain Poles, Czechs Czechs, Italians
Italians, not only in Chicago but in many cities. "Ethnic" is simply an
acceptable (to them) way to describe people who once were denigrated as
Polacks, Bohunks or Guineas. If ethnics respond to tough, mean guys on the
football field, it is often because their own lives have been constricted to
tough, mean work. They have been attuned to a fundamental rhythm, survival.
"That's why Dick Butkus was so important," Royko adds. "Anybody
with an Eastern European name—he's Lithuanian—who is tough and mean is a
natural. I doubt that he would have meant so much if he had been named Bill
agrees. Gerry Robichaud, another Chicago newspaperman, guesses that "50% of
Bear tickets go to corporate block buyers and well-fixed suburbanites," and
Studs Terkel, who has interviewed hundreds of working people for his classic
studies Hard Times and Working, feels ethnic lines have been blurred, partly by
population shifts, partly by television, expressways, politics. "The old
Studs Lonigan country has changed," Terkel says. "Not in location so
much as in means. The Irish aren't poor the way they were in the '30s. They
live where they do because the mayor does, too, and because he's put a lot of
them on the payroll. And of course blacks and Puerto Ricans have moved into
many of the bad neighborhoods."
To which Royko
rejoins, "So now you have ethnic suburbs—but the people who live in them
are still Bear fans. There are two generations of Bear fans in some of the old
cemeteries on Grand and Milwaukee Avenues, and a third generation goes by them
on the way to the game. Do I think Halas was glad to get Jim Finks? Sure. You
think Finks isn't an ethnic name? Huh! Since the '50s this has been a
Halas-hating town. The old man has shown poor judgment in a lot of ways. He let
some of his best men go. Not cheapness, just bad management. His son Mugs
[ George Halas Jr.] was part of it, and he's been more of it in the past few
years when he began to run things. George hasn't wanted to side against his
son, but Mugs hasn't got the touch the old man has."
dispassionate appraisal of Halas, a good many Chicago newspapermen have been
openly antagonistic to the Bears' owner. "In the '20s," says Royko,
"when he was just starting, Halas had to go around and kiss a lot of
behinds to get the Bears mentioned on the sports pages. When he became king of
the hill, they say he tried to get writers' jobs if they knocked the
Over the years
William Barry Furlong, a onetime Chicago sportswriter who is now a columnist on
, was fiercely critical of the Bears and Halas, and once
described the crusty owner as having "all the warmth of broken bones."
Another persistent and unforgiving critic is Bill Gleason, a Chicago Sun-Times
columnist. When Halas hired Jim Finks, Gleason wrote, "the Bears have
always had a couple of finks in management. Thursday they signed a man who
spells it with a capital F," and added later in his column, "even the
Machiavellian machinations of the medieval front office of the Bears will not
seems anything but dismayed. A trim, handsome, smiling Irishman who does not
look his 47 years and whose unmarred features dispute his seven years' service
as a defensive back and quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Finks radiates
Celtic charm and answers questions with such warm candor that it sometimes
takes a day or two to realize he hasn't said very much about his plans for the
Bears. "At first I was pleased with Gary Huff at quarterback," Finks
says, for example, "but that does not mean I was down on Bobby
Douglass." Huff, a second-year man, is a classic quarterback who stays in
the pocket, whereas Douglass, a scrambler, has sometimes been accused of
deliberately breaking pass plays he has called in order to run with the ball.
"Did you ever hear of another quarterback who does that?" Finks asks.
"We weren't exactly against scramblers where I come from."
Where Finks comes
from is Minnesota, Fran Tarkenton country, although he was born in southern
Illinois and played college football at Tulsa. In 10 years as general manager
he took the Vikings from nowhere to two Super Bowls. Before that he was with
the Calgary Stampeders after a year and a half at Notre Dame as a backfield
coach for Terry Brennan. "I left the Steelers," Finks says,
"because I was not an outstanding quarterback, and I knew the future lay
elsewhere." He is best remembered in Pittsburgh as the quarterback the
Steelers kept when they cut Johnny Unitas.
Early on Finks
said that he planned no immediate changes in Bear personnel but instead would
spend most of the season "evaluating" people, presumably everybody from
clerks in the front office to Head Coach Gibron. Gibron won only seven games in
his first two seasons. This year the Bears look about the same. What Finks is
evaluating is another dreary season. One Chicago fan shuddered with sympathy
and said, "Poor Abe. First the phlebitis and now a general manager who's
still at his playing weight."
Poor Abe indeed.
Gibron, a Lebanese, does not have much of an ethnic constituency in Chicago,
while Finks—whose paternal grandparents were born in Ireland's County
Sligo—should be able to command the support of every displaced Celt from Mayor
Daley to the South Shore garbage men, not to mention the Halases, father and
Finks is confident
that he has the free hand he was promised when he took the job and that
sufficient money will be available to make whatever moves he recommends. But he
is not naive. "I expected to be tested on that," he says, "and
probably more than once. But I have solid assurances from George and Mugs, and
I propose to enforce them."