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Such setbacks aside, what kind of pressure is there at 13-1? "Pressure is when you're 2-12," concedes Hampton. Still, Ditka's most glorious achievement in redirecting the Bears has been to simply let them be themselves. He created an environment in which an outlandish cast of loose, idiosyncratic meteors could seek out one another, collide and splash right to the heart of one of the more tediously reserved institutions in American life. "The National Clone League," Hampton calls it.
"We've always had closet-case characters in Chicago," explains Fencik. "But the NFL markets teams, not individuals, so people didn't know us. We also lost quite a bit. Then along comes Ditka, backed up by his great career and his respect, that tough-guy mystique—he's one of the more bizarre characters around—and all of a sudden it's as if we were sprung free. The season has been one long coming-out party."
So now, on any given Sunday...Speedburner Gault may spend hours primping before the mirror to look exquisite, then go out and continue to catch balls with his chest....Receiver Ken Margerum may fly to an open area of the field and thus miss a block, whereupon, obscenely upbraided by Ditka, he may scream back, "I know what the——I did wrong!"...Dave Duerson and Wilson may start barking like deranged hounds. "We're Dobermans. Singletary's the pit bull, McMichael is a Saint Bernard with rabies, Fencik's a poodle," says Duerson.... Singletary may read Bible scripture before breaking another running back in half....Payton, the former dance contestant on Soul Train and inveterate practical joker, may set off a fire alarm....Fencik may rush off to his TV shows to practice being Bob Costas or George Bush....And Hampton and McMichael may search out the raunchiest motorcyclist establishment they can find to bust up, uh, to shoot some pool. "We don't fight them pardners much anymore," says Mongo/Ming/McMichael. "Some of 'em are packin' guns."
As for McMahon, the rock 'em, cold-cock 'em, spittin' macho quarterback, McMichael thought he was weird. One day in his rookie season McMahon was eating his lunch in the locker room when McMichael sat down and began harassing him: taunting, picking at the rookie's food, jabbing him with utensils.
"You better quit or you'll get hurt," said the rookie, laughing.
And with that, Ming the Merciless picked up his helmet, looked quizzical and smashed himself in the face with it three times. Violently. Whup-whup-whup. Just like that. Then Ming looked over at McMahon and, puzzled beyond belief, said: "How you figure?"
So the Chicago Bears can't possibly continue to wreak carnage on the entire NFL and dominate the Super Bowl, the talk shows and the Zoo Parade as well?
Bonk! Smash! Crunch!
How you figure?