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Frank Deford
December 05, 1977
George Halas of the Chicago Bears said that. He also said, "Never go to bed a loser" and "I'm a firm believer in roughage." Which may be how he got to be an unflagging 82 and why his "Typical Days" are booked solid until April 1
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December 05, 1977

'i Don't Date Any Woman Under 48'

George Halas of the Chicago Bears said that. He also said, "Never go to bed a loser" and "I'm a firm believer in roughage." Which may be how he got to be an unflagging 82 and why his "Typical Days" are booked solid until April 1

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In 1925, in league with the storied promoter Cash and Carry Pyle, Halas signed Red Grange and toured the land, coast to coast, 18 games in two months. It did not make pro football in the U.S., but at least it dented some consciousness. Some. "I always enjoy animal acts," President Coolidge said when he was introduced to Messrs. Halas and Grange of the Chicago Bears.

It was Halas who brought the T formation to the pros. Also daily practices, assistant coaches, press-box spotters, training camps, films, the first pro marching band and the first pro fight song, Bear Down, Chicago Bears. With George Preston Marshall, the truculent chief of the Redskins, Halas usually fought tooth and nail, but in rare moments of concord they worked to introduce a championship game to the NFL; they produced a more exciting passing game, too; and they had the goalposts advanced to the goal line to boost the offense.

Papa Bear was occasionally out of tune. In the '34 championship, on a frozen field, the Giants donned sneakers at halftime and slipped away from the exasperated Bears. A few years later Halas perceived unlimited substitution as a potential evil, and he warned the brethren that it would "take all the fun out of the game." Luckily, this time the other owners did not heed the admonitions of the old 60-minute man, and thus were platoons platooned and money coined.

But Papa Bear sees no flies on the game today. Oh sure, if pressed he agrees that here and there you might chance upon an owner who is a tad selfish, but otherwise, hear this: "Football! First, you've got competition! You've got to be alert to play it! You've got to be sharp! The stars of yesteryear had a great desire to play, and they set the pace for modern-day football, that fine brand of football that you see on the field today! And we know it's got appeal! Why, it's the greatest game there is! You've got action! And it's a spectacular! It's—"

Maybe just a wee bit violent? Is it really necessary for quarterbacks to be maimed at the rate of Ugandan cabinet ministers? (This unseemly intrusion from a captious and ill-bred caller.)

"It's a violent game, sure," Halas goes on, suffering fools, "but it's just that kind of game! It's always been violent! But it's not dirty! No, football's not a dirty game! We haven't come anywhere near to its zenith!"

Papa Bear sits back for the moment, spent from delivering this encomium for his game, his love. The office is a fair representation of what football has been in his life. It is done largely in gridiron green. Save for two volumes of Who's Who and another testifying to The Joys of Wine, every book—200 or more—appears to be about football. On a shelf there is one framed exhortation—"Never Go to Bed a Loser," it says. George S. Halas said that and lives by it.

And across the way there is a long sofa where he naps every afternoon. This is no concession to the years. Papa Bear has always napped every day. Not for him three-martini lunches, or rich, starchy foods. "All those younger coaches always wondered where I got my energy," he chuckles, relishing the memory. Eleven, 12 o'clock midnight, they'd be yawning and bleary-eyed, while Papa Bear, fresh as a daisy, would be ready to dial Luckman with the plays.

What was your greatest satisfaction. Coach?

"The 73 to nothing," he replies directly, sure that no elaboration is required. The numbers are sufficient. It is probably the most famous score in American sports. When you think about it, very few scores are remembered. What was the score of Don Larsen's perfect game? Of the Super Bowl just last January? Name any basketball score in history; surely, not even Jerry Lucas can pull that off. But everybody knows 73-0, the Bears conquering the hated Redskins in the 1940 NFL championship game 73-0. The Monsters of the Midway! Incarnate.

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