See, Mr. Rozelle, the NFL doesn't always have to be Agnes of God.
"We just may be the biggest collection of zealots in history," says 6'5", 267-pound defensive end Dan Hampton, the Danimal. "But don't go comparing us with the old Raiders, Hendricks and Alzado and those clowns."
But zealots can be fighters, missionaries, lobbyists, fiends. Which is it, Danimal?
"The Raiders still use intimidation by dropped flags and kidney punches and cheap shots," says Hampton. "We play whistle to whistle and nobody sees us hitting guys in the face. We don't like that image. Monsters of the Midway. Yeah, O.K. We play like monsters, but we're congenial monsters. We say thank you and use napkins and stuff."
Defensive pillaging in Chicago is hardly a novel development. When last the Bears won the NFL championship, in 1963, the Chicago defensive unit so overshadowed its offense (on which Ditka was the tight end) that when the ball changed hands, Bear defenders snidely ordered their teammates to "hold 'em this time." Last year, after the Bears' 23-19 playoff victory over the Redskins, in which Chicago played hog butchers to Washington's storied hogs, if not to the football world, Skins QB Joe Theismann said that facing the Bear defense was like "being on a freeway at rush hour without a car."
Nevertheless, the key game so far in 1985 has been the very first one when, behind Tampa Bay 28-17 at the half, Chicago's offense exploded and showed the defense it could hold its own. The Bears won 38-28, and the offense has averaged nearly 29 points a game since. In retrospect the Buccaneers should have toasted themselves with champagne; in the middle of the season it would take six Bear opponents combined to score 29 points.
During that time, until the Dolphins neutralized the Bears' vaunted pass rush in their 38-24 win over Chicago on Dec. 2, the imposing Bears defense put together 13 consecutive touchdownless quarters, among other spectacular numbers, which is precisely what it had to do to attract the attentions of a nation gone absolutely crazy with Fridge Fever.
Ironically enough it was two "accidents" on the offensive side, live on Entertainment-Tonight Football, which originally, indelibly drilled the Bears into the American psyche. One was Ditka's use of the 308-pound William Perry on goal-line bursts—initially nothing more than a vengeful response to San Francisco's offensive guard Guy McIntyre carrying the ball in the 49ers' 23-0 blowout of the Bears in last season's NFC championship game. When Ditka touché'd the 49ers with the Refrigerator in a get-back 26-10 rout, the coach called the gimmick "food for thought," food being the only word Perry needed to hear. Immediately he began ramming for TDs and catching them and picking up Payton to try to throw him into the end zone as well. If Fridge had been a kangaroo, he could have hidden Sweetness in his pouch.
As the Bears' new Galloping Roast made a household name out of a household appliance, the ensuing commercial carnival resulted in Perry's agent, Jim Steiner, wearing fast-food pins on his Halston sports jacket and Perry himself raking in, to paraphrase the Dire Straits lyrics, "money for nothin' and chick[en]s for free." And to think Perry was, at the time, just a second-string guy from the defense who had gone over.
There is some suspicion that the Bears' erstwhile quarterback, McMahon, may also be a defender at heart, owing to the method by which he seeks out punishment, particularly from his own mates, who willingly head-bash him after scoring plays. An appreciative Ryan says, "Jim is like a defensive guy. He'll spit on you." As if his leather pants and Jack Nicholson shades affixed with a glitter gold chain weren't counterculture enough—McMahon stuck a fork in his eye in a childhood accident so the glasses are legit—here came the rebel signal caller one night wearing a railroad-spike Commando haircut, moussed back. Where are you, Bobby Layne? And you, Yelberton Abraham Tittle?