Sunday, January 27, 2013

No. 494 – I Know What I Like (in Your Wardrobe)

Performer: Genesis
Songwriters: Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett, Mike Rutherford
Original Release: Selling England By the Pound
Year: 1973
Definitive Version: You’ll Love Us Live, 1980

Although I’m a huge baseball fan, I’m not much of a football fan—pro football anyway. That hasn’t always been true.

When I was a kid, I liked the Los Angeles Rams. I’m pretty sure I chose them because a bunch of the first football cards I ever had, from the glorious 1971 set, were Rams players. (As an aside, the Rams cards from that set are awesome. Most players making gloriously hokey old-school poses. Check out the Jack Snow in particular.)

That affiliation changed in the Eighties. In Columbus, Ohio, we were fed a steady diet of Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns games on TV, but for whatever reason, I didn’t gravitate to those teams. When I started going to Wabash, the local TV team was the Chicago Bears. (Remember, this was before the Colts hightailed it out of Baltimore.)

Well, I loved Walter Payton—who didn’t?—and Dick Butkus was my favorite player when I was a kid. Then the Bears drafted Jim McMahon, a fave while at BYU. Because Bears games were on every weekend (Tim Ryan and Johnny Morris back in the day), it was a natural thing to root for the Bears. My timing was perfect, because when 1985 rolled around, no one accused me of being a bandwagon-jumper.

I’ve said that the 1999 Cincinnati Reds were my all-time favorite baseball team. The 1985 Chicago Bears were my all-time favorite team, period. I never had more fun following a team than that team, with the possible exception of the 1986 Bears, which was, of course, after I moved to Chicago and could take in the entire experience.

I suppose if you were a fan of a team the Bears beat up on or you got sick of hearing about them, you hated the 1985 Bears. Otherwise how could you? They were characters who made the game fun to watch, and they coached by the biggest character of them all. Come on, William Refrigerator Perry running the ball, catching the ball and trying to carry Payton into the end zone that one time? McMahon and his nutty headbands? Ditka’s insane press conferences? The Super Bowl Shuffle?

I watched every minute of every game that year. The 1985 season was the culmination of something you could see coming. 1983 was the first sign, when they won five of their last six games. They rolled to the NFC championship game in 1984, and expectations were really high going into 1985. You just KNEW they were going to be good. We just didn’t know HOW good.

I would argue that the 1985 Bears were the greatest NFL team of all time, despite the one blemish on a freakish night in Miami. (As someone once said, if you throw a pass that bounces off a defender’s helmet into the arms of a receiver and it goes for a touchdown, as Dan Marino and the Dolphins did that Monday night, you know it’s not your night.)

They also delivered my all-time favorite game result. Just as I grew up loving the Rams, I hated, repeat, HATED, all caps, the Dallas Cowboys who always seemed to beat up my beloved Rams when it counted. The 1985 Bears made up for all that and then some in Dallas, pulverizing the Cowboys in a way no one had before in my lifetime. The Sports Illustrated cover the next week said it all: 44-0. The only way it could have been better would have been if the cover read 100-0.

As with my music, I got Scott into the Bears in a big way, and we’d have phone conversations about the games each week. He bought The Superbowl Shuffle as soon as it came out.

We finally got to watch a game together during Christmas break. It was the last regular-season game of the year, in Detroit, and I remember distinctly that Scott had just bought You’ll Love Us Live and was playing it for me in his underground lair (the aforementioned B--- Off Room). The version of this song, with the well-miched crowd in the background and Phil’s tom solo, particularly stuck with me that day.

The other thing that stuck with me was one play in an otherwise sloppy but certain rout of the Lions: Late in the game, the Lions had the ball deep in Bears territory when they fumbled. In one motion, the Fridge leaped over a fallen player, picked up the ball and rumbled off to the end zone … 80 yards away.

As soon as the play happened, I started jumping up and down, yelling, “No way! No way!” in joyful disbelief. I mean there was NO WAY Perry was going to run it all the way back. His season was already legendary enough as is.

Of course, Perry didn’t: He was tackled at about the Lions 20, but it was another awesome moment during my favorite sports season of all-time.

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